Recorder: "Greenfield schools have served over 500,000 free meals during pandemic"

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Staff Writer

Published: 3/22/2021 4:21:47 PM

GREENFIELD — Almost a year ago, Greenfield Public Schools Food Service team went from “normal” school meal operations to immediately serving free meals to anyone 18 years old and younger, and through its grab-and-go service it had served 504,914 meals to about 1,000 children as of March 21.

The district’s Food Service Director Eliza Calkins said the team shifted to providing three meals a day, seven days a week at the beginning of April 2020, and in September added a home delivery option with the help of the school system’s transportation department to make sure remote learners had meals and full bellies.

Calkins said last week the team celebrated the one-year anniversary of serving meals during the emergency school closures due to the pandemic.

“The Santiago family generously had ‘COVID-versary” T-shirts made for every team member,” Calkins said. “Principal Lynn Dole of Greenfield Middle School donated party supplies. Teri Poirier and Starr Hurd provided treats. I made them a booklet with 110 images of Greenfield School Lunch Facebook posts and comments from the community expressing their gratitude to the team for everything they have done.”

Calkins said meals have included everything from chicken nuggets and grilled cheese to chicken cacciatore and tacos. She said sandwiches and grinders are also served regularly as are chicken pot pies, chicken and gravy over rice and more.

“We tend to serve hot meals on pickup days — Monday, Wednesday and Friday — and cold or meals that can be reheated on other days and over the weekend,” she said. “We have pickup or delivery on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Friday is always pizza, just like when they were in school.”

Calkins said the meals are funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Summer Food Services Program. Any and all children ages 18 and younger are eligible and they don’t have to attend a district school or live in the city.

“This program will continue to the end of the school year and through the summer, though I don’t know yet whether we’ll be able to deliver during the summer,” she said.

Calkins said the meals are hearty and healthy. She said everyone is excited, especially her managers, about serving from-scratch meals.

“They’re so enthusiastic and have worked so hard through all of this,” she said. “We’re so proud of what we’ve been able to do.”

Each year, the school district receives funding for its summer meals program. The last year’s efforts have simply been an extension of that program.

Calkins, along with kitchen leads Hurd and Poirier and about 25 staff members, have prepared, packed and served the grab-and-go meals from the Greenfield Middle School cafeteria.

“It has been difficult work, but everyone has rolled with the changes,” Calkins said. “Feeding children has always been and still is our priority.”

For more information, call the Food Service Department at 413-772-1335 or visit the Greenfield School Lunch Facebook page for updates.

Reach Recorder reporter Anita Fritz at 413-772-9591 or