WATAUGA — Over the course of six week days, Watauga County Schools served 12,841 meals to local children 18 and younger during a state-mandated closure due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
On March 17, school officials started operating five feeding sites by offering lunch and a packed breakfast for the next day at Bethel, Mabel and Green Valley schools while also offering dinner and breakfast for the next day at Hardin Park School and Brushy Fork Baptist Church. Within the first four days, the school system served 6,541 meals. WCS then served another 2,298 meals the following Monday and another 3,334 on that Tuesday.
The school system added two new sites, Valle Crucis School and Watauga High School, on Monday, March 23. Both started operating as breakfast and lunch sites. Meals from breakfast and lunch sites can be picked up from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.; dinner meals can be gathered from 4 to 6 p.m.
WCS Superintendent Scott Elliott said that public schools are about more than just academics. He said the school system takes seriously its mission to support students and families in any way possible.
“Taking care of basic needs such as providing food for children is something we have always done,” Elliott said. “There was never a question about whether or not we would be providing meals to our families. Our student nutrition staff has done incredible work over the past week — not just serving more than 6,000 meals, but creating and implementing the plan that made that service possible.”
With very little notice, Elliott said the nutrition staff not only developed menus for the plan, but also planned bus routes to provide food to families who aren’t able to come to the pickup sites. WCS began delivering meals by bus on March 18, according to Mabel School counselor Christy Welch.
Welch said Mabel started delivering 40 meals on the first day of delivery and by that Friday they were delivering up to almost 60 meals — for a total of 152 meals during the course of three days.
“This makes me and my brother feel really special and important that Mabel School would come out of their way to take care of me and my family,” said Faith Dollars, a Mabel School eighth-grader.
Those with school-aged children with unmet food needs can email a contact from the schools. These contacts include Megan Langdon for Bethel, Mabel and Parkway (firstname.lastname@example.org); Heather Holbrook for Blowing Rock and Green Valley (email@example.com); Mary Smalling at Cove Creek (firstname.lastname@example.org); Denise Presnell for Hardin Park (email@example.com); Bonnie Smith for Valle Crucis (firstname.lastname@example.org); and Jennifer Wandler for Watauga High School (email@example.com).
For more information on the response of Watauga County Schools to COVID-19, visit www.wataugaschools.org/coronavirus.
Community food box sites
In addition to the meals that the school system is providing to children, local churches and organizations have implemented pickup sites for boxes of food. These meals are first come, first serve with limited supplies.
Food can be picked up from the following locations:
- Alliance Bible Fellowship, located at 1035 N.C 105 Bypass, Boone, is opening a food pantry on Mondays from 3-5 p.m. The program is for N.C. residents only, one box per month per family/house.
- Blowing Rock C.A.R.E.S. at Rumple Memorial, located at 1218 Main St., Blowing Rock, will have its food pantry open 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. on Mondays. For more information about Rumple Memorial in Blowing Rock, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Boone United Methodist Church, located at 471 New Market Blvd., Boone, will have to-go meals and food boxes on Thursdays from 5-6:30 p.m.
- Casting Bread Food Pantry, located at 194 Aho Road, Blowing Rock, is open Wednesdays and Thursdays from 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. for drive-thru food pickup. Families can get food boxes twice a month.
- First Presbyterian Church, located at 131 Big Valley St., Boone, is offering food boxes on Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
- Greenway Baptist Church, located at 880 Greenway Road, Boone, is offering food boxes on Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
- Hardin Park School, located at 361 Jefferson Road, Boone, is offering food boxes from 1-3 p.m. on Thursdays (in addition to the dinner and breakfast take-and-go meals provided every school day from 4-6 p.m.)
- High Country United Church of Christ, located at 8235 U.S. 421 North, Vilas, is having food boxes on Saturdays from 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. and on Mondays from 5:15-7 p.m.
- Hospitality House, located at 338 Brook Hollow Road, Boone, is serving meals three times a day (6:30-8:30 a.m., 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 5:30-6:30 p.m.). In addition, the food pantry is open seven days a week from 12-4 p.m. with a limit of two pickups a month.
- Hunger and Health Coalition, located at 141 Health Center Drive, Boone, is offering curb-side service from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.. Monday through Friday. Fresh produce and other perishables and to go meals once a week. Families can get food boxes twice a month. Diapers, free baby formula, and baby wipes for Watauga County residents only.
- Mount Vernon Baptist Church, located at 3505 Bamboo Road, Boone, has food boxes available. Call (828) 266-9700 for more details.
- Parkway Elementary School, located at 160 Parkway School Drive, Boone, has food boxes from 1-3 p.m. on Tuesdays.
- theHeart Church, located at 191 Howard Street, Boone, is offering food boxes on Wednesdays from 1-4 p.m.
- The Rock, located at 215 Boone Heights Drive, Unit 301, Boone, is offering food boxes and school supplies from 5-7 p.m. on Wednesdays and Sundays.
- Western Watauga Food Outreach is moving its Thursday 4-6 p.m. food bag distribution to Henson’s Chapel United Methodist Church at 120 Henson Hollar Road, Vilas.