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Brinley Acol, third grader, above, picks up meals at Mid Valley from Sarah Chamonica, left, and Beatriz Hochhalter. “We’ve been really busy,” Hochhalter said. 

Hood River County School District summer meal service continues in August.

The District will keep providing meals to those in the community who need it, thanks to Gorge Grown Food Network, FISH food banks, United Way of the Columbia Gorge, and the Columbia Gorge Food Security Coalition.

Meal boxes (often bags, to be exact, but bursting with food) with multiple meals for the week, can be picked up at no charge from 10 to 11 a.m. on Aug. 5, 12, 19 and 26 at Parkdale, Cascade Locks, Mid Valley and May Street Elementary Schools.

Any family needing food for children birth to 18 years needs only come and request it; there is no sign-up or eligibility, other than the age range.

The meal packages include fresh fruit and vegetables and “something easy for them to heat up in the home,” according to Beatriz Hochhalter, school cook at one site, Mid Valley Elementary.

The program has gone well so far this year, she said.

As to preparing sufficient quantities for each day, “we keep count and we make a number.” Hochhalter said. Dairy, fruit and other perishables are carefully stored for use the next day, she said. “Nothing gets lost.”

As far as COVID precautions, “We have to be more cautious with wearing gloves and masks at all times, sterilizing and after we do something, washing our hands,” Hochhalter said, in addition to receiving special training via district food services department.

The meal program also served the Migrant Summer School Program, held at Mid Valley in July. Students get math and reading assistance, and art, music and physical education experiences during the three-hour sessions. The 80 students in the morning and afternoon sessions spend the day in cohorts to reduce contact and risk of coronavirus transmission. Hochhalter said only designated people are allowed to distribute food to the students in the Migrant Program.

The HRCSSD Board of Directors heard last week from Johanna Haas, Food Security Coordinator for Gorge Grown, who has been spearheading and organizing food box delivery this spring and summer for families when school cafeterias ceased their conventional food service due to COVID closures.

According to Catherine Dalbey, district Human Resources director, when school was curtailed in March, the community meal box program was launched, and continued to July and with the start of the Migrant Program.

“Jordan and her organizational skills, and an army of volunteers, made that happen, and they are gearing up again to resume the food box program again in August,” Dalbey said.

“We are happy to help and fill in during this time,” said Haas, a Hood River native who is a nutritionist with a focus on food justice and local food procurement.

Board vice chair Julia Garcia-Ramirez thanked Haas and the coalition, saying “Families were concerned that the end of the year was coming, not sure what was going to be available. Knowing there was something they had access to was reassuring for many. Some families depend on meals they get through the schools.”

Superintendent Rich Polkinghorn told Hass, “The big concern now is the kids struggling to make ends meet are really impacted by the virus and no school, and your help is critical.”

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