Summer learning, feeding programs begin at area schools

Betsy PriceEducation, Headlines

Milford School District began their summer learning programs on Monday, June 28, bringing in as many students as they can to help those who may have struggled over the past school year. According to Dr. Laura Manges, Director of Student Learning, the biggest issue they faced putting together the summer program was staffing.

“We thank our staff for stepping up to help us provide our students with a rigorous summer school program,” Dr. Manges said. “We do have students that must be provided 12-months of service which means we have to provide them with education even in the summer, along with the Extended Buccaneer Programs and other summer programming. We are offering a sigh of relief that we are able to provide our students with what they need. Our summer program is more rigorous than in the past. We started talking to around 130 students and I believe our enrollment right now is between 70 and 80.”

Sharron Forrest, Director of Child Nutrition, also discussed the Summer Feeding Program that will be available during the summer months. Forrest also provided information on the Child Nutrition Program.

“First, I want to thank my staff, my managers, the directors, the principals and Sara [Croce, Chief Financial Officer],” It has been a trying year for staff because they want to feed everybody. As hard as it was, it was a great year. The Community Eligibility Provision allows for schools with 40 percent or more of students qualifying for free and reduced meals to provide free meals to all students, regardless of their family status. We are reimbursed 76 percent at the free reimbursement rate and 24 percent of the paid reimbursement rate. Over the past year, any child 18 or older, even if they were not enrolled in the school district, received free meals.”

Curbside service began March 18, 2020, providing pickup meals at all Milford schools, in Ellendale, The Learning Center, Houston and Mispillion Apartments initially. The program was eventually discontinued at Mispillion Elementary and Milford Central Academy due to low numbers. In the spring of 2021, Child Nutrition focused on serving students at the schools, suspending curbside service at Morris and in Ellendale.

“As of May 31, 2021, we have delivered 163,864 meals using our curbside program and 181,203 in-house meals,” Forrest said. “Some of the positives that have come out of this is that staff was able to work in other kitchens under different managers which helped with team building. Doing both curbside and in-house was very labor intensive and we also had to deal with increased costs related to products and supplies.”

For the summer, Milford School District will offer in-house food programs at Banneker and Mispillion Elementary, Morris Early Childhood Center, Milford Central Academy and Milford High School. Curbside feeding will be held at Banneker on Thursdays from 11:00 AM until 12 Noon; Mispillion Apartments on Thursdays from 11:00 AM until 12:00 Noon; Mt. Zion Church in Ellendale Thursdays from 11:30 AM until 12:00 Noon; Milford High School from 3:30 PM to 5:15 PM on Wednesdays and with delivery to The Learning Center Monday through Friday.

“For both in-house and curbside, we must include a meat or meat alternative, grain, fruit, vegetable as well as non-fat or low-fat milk,” Forrest said. “The significance of this is that when kids go through the line, they are only required to choose three out of the five. During the summer program, we must give them all five. Frankly, a lot of the vegetables end up in the trash.”

School Board Vice-President Rony Baltazar-Lopez thanked Forrest and her staff for their dedication to children throughout the pandemic.

“I am on the board for Parks & Recreation,” Baltazar-Lopez said. “Brad Dennehy told us that the district would be providing lunches for the summer camps which I think is awesome. Anything we can do to help children, that is great.”

President Jason Miller also commended the Child Nutrition staff.

“Your flexibility this year has been phenomenal,” Miller said. “The service you have provided ot our community has been exceptional. You make the rest of us look good and I know I speak for the entire board when I say we appreciate all that you do for our kids.”

Forrest also took a moment to recognize the late Mariann Morton who was a Child Nutrition manager for the district for many years. Morton died suddenly a few months ago and Forrest wanted to recognize her dedication to the children of the district throughout the years.

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