When the decision to move schooling to a home-based model was made recently, one of the first concerns of some educators was not for the academic or social needs of students, but for their physical needs. Many families count on school lunches for one meal per day for their children, and some students actually receive breakfast, lunch, and dinner at their school each day.
When school is in session in the building, students at Lutheran South Unity School (LSUS) on Fort Wayne’s southeast side are able to receive breakfast, lunch, and dinner daily as part of the federal school lunch program. For some families, these meals are critically important. When the news of a need for social distancing and the move to home-based learning hit, LSUS Principal Sheila Nehrenz knew that finding a way to feed their students needed to be a main consideration for the transition to home based learning.
Principal Nehrenz and her staff were able to work with consultants from the school lunch program to develop a drive-up system of meal delivery. At lunchtime, parents are able to pick up both a hot lunch for each of their children, and a bagged breakfast for the following morning. Not only does the drive-up meal program provide necessary meals for children, it is also providing work for the three dietary staff members at LSUS. As Principal Nehrenz said, “In hard and even uncertain times, when even our students are home from school, we can continue our mission to reach out to meet the needs of those we serve. Whether it’s a computer, food or our teachers making personal connections with their students we strive to be a blessing to others. I Peter 4:10 says, Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace.
At Concordia Lutheran Elementary School on the northeast side of Fort Wayne, faculty and staff also saw an opportunity to care for their families by providing meals. A team of staff and faculty volunteers have packaged bagged lunches and breakfasts for students, providing them once a week in a drive-through pick up lane, as well. The second week of their program saw the number of students fed doubling from 100 to 200. You can read the Journal Gazette’s coverage of Concordia’s meal program on their website.
At both schools, one of the biggest benefits of this drive-through meal program has been the ability for students to see the faces of the caring adults in their school community. As the faculty and staff work together to distribute the meals, students in cars wave and smile to see the adults they miss so much. At Concordia, a team of faculty volunteers had the specific job of being cheerleaders for their students as they drove through the meal line-smiling, waving, cheering, and holding up signs of encouragement. Concordia teacher Angie Owen said, “That’s what being a Lutheran school teacher means to me-taking care of the whole child-spiritually, academically, mentally, and physically. And I am blessed by this!”
While they are not providing meals to students on a regular basis, Concordia Lutheran High School in Fort Wayne distributed from the abundance of their refrigerators when the transition to home based learning was announced. Staff members even dropped food off to some families, showing their care and concern in a very tangible way.
While not all of our Lutheran Schools are able to offer meals at their sites at this time, there are other opportunities for students to obtain meals at public schools in our communities. Fort Wayne Community Schools offers meals at their sites, as do East Allen County Schools, East Noble Schools, and North Adams Schools. The meals available at these public schools sites are available to our Lutheran Schools students, as well.
We know that in order for our students to be ready to learn academically, their bodies need to be fed physically. Our Lutheran schools are following the example of Jesus in Matthew 14. Just as Christ provided for the physical needs of His followers by feeding them loaves and fishes, we strive to do the same. As a parent from Concordia Elementary said, “Thank you for doing this. Not only are you offering free meals to the kids, you cheered us on as we drove by, you were holding signs that had messages of love and encouragement, and you even came to the car and prayed with us. God is so good-all the time, He is good! You have blessed us more than you will ever know!”