Schools begin ‘Grab & Go’ meal distribution in county

  • Food Packaging
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Cafeteria workers Wanda Smith (left) and Christy Smith (right) package meals for students at Deyton Elementary School for the Grab & Go food pickup initiative. (Juliana Walker/MNJ)

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SPRUCE PINE – After closing all North Carolina schools, Gov. Roy Cooper announced in an executive order Saturday, March 14, the priority for each school district was to ensure all students were fed during the closure. 

In Mitchell County, the food distribution response has been deemed “Grab & Go.” Lunch and breakfast meals are available to all children, preschool through twelfth grade, even if he or she is not in the public school system. Grab & Go meals are served 11 a.m.-1 p.m. Monday through Friday at multiple sites across the county.

One of those sites is Deyton Elementary, where Rhonda Murphy, the school’s cafeteria manager, and Carmella Hughes, cafeteria manager at Harris Middle, are sharing the responsibility of managing the meal preparation, packaging and pickup.

“We’re begging kids to come,” Murphy said. “We have food. We just want to get it out to them.”

A person must roll down the window, state how many meals are needed and wait for further instructions to pick up food. School workers wearing gloves then grab as many meals as requested and place them on a sanitized table. The person is then instructed to get out of the car and pick up the meals. The table is sanitized after each pickup to ensure the health and safety of everyone involved.

“We’re just trying to serve as many kids as we can,” Hughes said. “I’m not here for my health. I’m here to feed my kids.”

Hughes said this process has been very emotional for her and her coworkers.  

“I miss the kids, and I miss being at my school,” she said. “I hope they realize through this that we do care and we do love them.”

Mitchell County Schools had provided thousands of meals through this initiative since Wednesday, March 18, when it began. The most food was provided Friday, March 20, when 1,202 breakfast and lunch meals were distributed across the county. 

Mitchell County Schools Superintendent Chad Calhoun said meals would continue being provided as long as schools are closed.