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Holmen School District delivering meals to students, siblings during virtual learning period
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Holmen School District delivering meals to students, siblings during virtual learning period

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Hundreds of households in Holmen answered their doors Wednesday to accept deliveries of hot, aromatic pizza.

Holmen school lunches

Holmen School District transportation employee Mark Quade loads lunches onto a school bus Wednesday before helping deliver them throughout the community.

The cheesy slices, however, came free of charge — no delivery fees or tips necessary.

For the past two weeks, Holmen community members age 18 and under, regardless of whether they are enrolled in classes, have been receiving a breakfast and hot lunch five days a week courtesy of the School District of Holmen.

Holmen school lunches

Heather Mathwig, right, and Analise Smith with the Holmen School District Nutrition Department bag individual pizzas Wednesday at Holmen Middle School. The department is preparing about 1000 breakfasts and 1,400 lunches per day during the virtual learning period. Mathwig has three children enrolled at Holmen public schools.

Last April, when learning went remote due to the coronavirus precautionary school closure mandate, the district’s nutrition services department provided the same through the end of the semester.

However, while pick-up of the meals was previously required, the transportation department has now been brought on board to drive the food to places of residence.

“Some parents are back at work and the students are virtual learning and they don’t really have a way to pick (meals) up,” says Michael Gasper, nutrition services supervisor for the School District of Holmen. “The meal just shows up for them — it’s really quite slick.”

Holmen school lunches

Analise Smith loads a crate of milk Wednesday while preparing lunches at Holmen Middle School.

Currently, remote learning for Holmen public schools is set to extend through the end of the month, and so far nutrition services has prepared and delivered about 11,000 lunches, which consist of a hot main dish and cold or shelf stable sides, and 7,000 breakfasts.

A team of about 19 churns out some 2,400 meals daily, which are bused to students by a roster of 20 transportation employees using eight vehicles. The first workers of the day arrive at 5:30 a.m., and the last clock out at 3 p.m.

“The attitudes have been really good — these folks love to make sure these kids are fed and ready to learn,” says Gasper, who refers to the logistics, cooking, packaging, coordinating and delivery process as “controlled chaos.”

The transportation team has been equally enthusiastic and accommodating, Gasper says, and both parents and youth have expressed their appreciation for the service.

“They are just so thankful. It’s one less thing for them to worry about. They know their kids are being taken care of,” Gasper says. The youth, he says, will hear a knock on the door and open it with a big smile.

“The kids are getting a bit of normalcy in a crazy time,” Gasper says.

Siblings of students and home-schooled children can partake in the program, and the meals being delivered, which are funded through the USDA, follow the same nutritional guidelines as standard school issued breakfasts and lunches.

Registration is required, but Gasper recalls an employee who, when a boy chased after the bus but hadn’t signed up, provided him with a meal anyway, not wanting him to be hungry.

“These people are truly good hearted,” Gasper says of the nutrition services workers. “They’re great people who love what they’re doing.”

Free meals and delivery will continue if remote learning is extended, up to Dec. 22 or when the USDA has exhausted funding.

When in-session classes and busing resumes, pick-up may be required for students who continue to pursue virtual education. Meals must be pre-ordered by Wednesday the week prior. To order, call the Nutrition Service Office at 526-1325 or visit https://holmen.co1.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_6JSuOrhG0RjW1db.

“Some parents are back at work and the students are virtual learning and they don’t really have a way to pick (meals) up. The meal just shows up for them — it’s really quite slick.” Michael Gasper, nutrition services supervisor for the School District of Holmen

Emily Pyrek can be reached at emily.pyrek@lee.net.

"Some parents are back at work and the students are virtual learning and they don't really have a way to pick (meals) up. The meal just shows up for them -- it's really quite slick."

Michael Gasper, nutrition services supervisor for the School District of Holmen

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