by Terry Rogers
First Lady Tracey Quillen Carney and the members of the End Childhood Hunger Task Force (ECHO) announced recipients of the First Chance awards on Friday, September 18. Those receiving the award stepped up to keeping Delaware fed when schools closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic in March. Milford School District was among the recipients.
“School-based food services represent our front line of defense against childhood hunger and in support of the nutrition essential to healthy development and learning,” First Lady Carney said. “When school buildings had to close, it took a wide range of teams, comprised of dedicated, creative, determined individuals, to devise and implement plans to continue to feed our kids. We are so very grateful for their extraordinary work, which they are still doing, on behalf of the children of Delaware. We are proud to recognize these leaders and teams with First Chance awards for their extraordinary service to Delaware’s children during the pandemic.”
Trish Gerken, Public Information Officer for Milford School District applauded the district’s Child Nutrition program and Sharron Forrest, Supervisor of Child Nutrition for the district, for stepping up without pause to be sure that the district’s children were fed during the COVID-19 closures. In addition to the regular program, meals were offered to all children 18 and under.
“This was thanks to a waiver from USDA that has allowed us to serve our whole community, not just enrolled students,” Gerken said. “Since we fall under the Community Eligibility Provision, all our schools qualified for free summer meals. We needed to follow the Summer Food Service Program meal requirements and regulations. The USDA allowed several waivers which helped make the quick transition easier to manage. This included allowing parents to pick up meals without their children in the car and allowing us to serve several meals at the time of pick-up. We wanted to reduce the number of times parents had to drive to the pick-up site. During this time, we were able to serve over 61,116 breakfasts and 61,019 lunches.”
Gerken explained that there were many challenges in getting food to those who needed it, most especially getting the word out to the community.
“We used our “All Call” system to contact district families,” Gerken said. “Flyers were distributed, and our website and social media pages were used, but still some people were unaware. We did curbside pick-up and used our district van to reach those in Ellendale. Our wonderful Child Nutrition staff stepped up to the plate so there were no issues with staffing.”
Awards like this publicize the importance of feeding children, especially in times of national crisis, Gerken stated. It also shows the dedication of school districts and charters in Delaware, proving that they will do anything they can to support children and families. Gerken pointed out that Milford School District will always put children first. There is no monetary benefit to the award, but the district will receive a commemorative coaster.
“The First Chance Award is a tremendous honor for our Child Nutrition team, an honor truly earned through their relentless work during the pandemic,” Dr. Kevin Dickerson, Superintendent, said. “We are very proud of our Child Nutrition team’s response and exceptional services during the past spring and summer for our students, families and communities. They were extraordinary in their dedication to preparing and providing meals during this time. IN addition, Ms. Forrest continues to be exemplary with her leadership of the Child Nutrition program and in providing critical services for our students and the communities that we serve. Deservedly, Ms. Forrest will receive the First Chance Award on behalf of our Child Nutrition team. We acknowledge the great job our School Cafeteria Managers did in leading the operations of our feeding sites as well. Furthermore, we would like to congratulate Stephanie Dukes of the Family Outreach Multipurpose Community Center for also receiving the First Chance Award and her continued excellence in providing much needed resources for our surrounding communities.”