Food Services employees help distribute lunches from 10 to noon weekdays at four schools for any child in Flagler County.
Katie Crooke pressed her gloved hands against the passenger window of an SUV to greet two kindergarten students. Because of social distancing and school closures during the coronavirus outbreak, it was the closest she’d be able to get to a hug.
“They’re my babies,” said Crooke, principal of Old Kings Elementary School, as she helped distribute grab-and-go lunches alongside other Flagler Schools Food Services employees on March 23, at Flagler Palm Coast High School. “It’s pretty emotional. I’m so used to seeing them and hugging them every single day.”
FPC is one of four distribution sites — along with Buddy Taylor Middle, Bunnell Elementary and Indian Trails Middle schools — set up to provide food to any child in Flagler County, as the summer feeding program has gotten off to an early start. Food Services Director Angie Bush said the program is funded through the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Children must be present to receive the food.
“We’re ready to carry this forward indefinitely,” Bush said, “as long as we have food and staff.”
"For many of our kids, the school meals are the best meals they get. So to keep that going for the families is important."
ANGIE BUSH, Food Services director
The meals are free and can be picked up between 10 a.m. and noon each weekday until further notice. They prepared to serve 300 per school per day, and number were low on the first day. Some families may not have gotten the word, and some may have been scared to leave home.
“When states and countries are locking down and saying not to leave the confines of their homes, it’s a little scary,” Bush said. “But for many of our kids, the school meals are the best meals they get. So to keep that going for the families is important.”
She also praised the staff involved in distribution.
“We have a lot of people with amazingly huge hearts,” Bush said.
As the time passed on the first day the food was offered, the Food Services staff at FPC cheered as vehicles approached.
“I love doing this,” said Louise McCourty, a Food Services staff member dressed in a gray chef’s jacket. “We just want to know the kids are being fed. I even tell some of them, ‘Tell your neighbors.’ We are happy to serve them.”
Meanwhile, at Old Kings Elementary School, staff and administration are busy preparing for virtual learning districtwide. Crooke stepped away to help with distribution, and she’s glad she did because of the small, surprising moments she shared with her students.
“I got some smiles,” Crooke said.