WATAUGA — Volunteers from the local faith community are delivering meals to school children in the area as Watauga County Schools reaches 17,174 breakfast and lunch meals distributed since Aug. 17.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture extended funding and flexibility on Aug. 31 to WCS that allowed the school system to serve free meals to all children in the county regardless of income or school enrollment. However, school officials were not given the go-ahead to use school buses to deliver meals as they had during the spring and summer months.

Understanding that access to meals can be critical for some families while students are remote learning, members of the faith community are volunteering to deliver meals to approximately 72 families, according to WCS Superintendent Scott Elliott. Denise Presnell, a social worker at Hardin Park School, said that the faith community is “rallying like they do.” Approximately 20 churches are partnering with the school system to deliver meals.

Presnell explained that faith community volunteers have previously conducted grocery deliveries during past summers in which they would deliver a box of food to families in the community identified by school social workers and counselors. The same general group of volunteers helped to provide food boxes at various sites in the county to community members when the pandemic began.

Some of the WCS schools are in different phases of doing meal deliveries via volunteers, according to Presnell. Once school officials have identified church partners to deliver meals, they start releasing that information to parents, she said. A few schools already have deliveries happening, others are waiting for names of families to deliver to, and some are in the phase of identifying church partners.

Megan Langdon, a school social worker at Parkway School, said her school is still looking for volunteers to deliver meals. The school is currently expecting delivery needs for more than 40 meals. To sign up as a volunteer, submit a background check form at tinyurl.com/SchoolVolunteerBackgroundCheck.

Volunteers are asked to not leave meals on the porches of families, but rather to place food on a porch and then wait while social distancing for a family to step out to gather the food, according to Presnell. The school system provides other guidance to volunteers such as asking volunteers to bring their own masks while using school-provided disposable gloves and hand sanitizer.

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