PUSD initiates breakfast and lunch program during school closure

Tashina Williams, Jeannie Wood, Lynne Hoffman, and Debbie Smith prepare lunches last Monday. Photo by Steven Law/Special to the Chronicle.

By Steven Law
Special to the Chronicle

The Page Unified School District last Monday began a program preparing and distributing free breakfasts and lunches to all of its students in need during the state-mandated school closure due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Staff from PUSD’s Food and Nutrition Department were joined by a dozen volunteers from the school district and together they made 500 sack breakfasts and lunches. The meals were then placed into paper sacks, loaded into vans, taken to the distribution sites and handed out to those who needed them.

Arturo Marquez, director of Dining Services at PUSD, said he and his group may adjust the number of meals made each day as the program matures and he gets a better idea of the number of people utilizing the program.

The kitchen staff arrived at the Page Middle School lunchroom at 6 a.m. and began making the meals. Ten or 12 more volunteers arrived at 7 a.m. to help them package and deliver the meals.

The meal program was an easy one for the school district to implement, as it does a similar meal program during summer vacation.

In the summer, PUSD’s Dining Services prepares 200 breakfasts and 300 lunches per day. Funding for the program comes from a federal community preparedness program.

PUSD Superintendent Rob Varner said the school district is happy to do all it can for its students and their families.

“We’re here to serve the community, and this food program is just one way for us to help,” Varner said.

Among those who were assisted by the meal program were four children of Andreana Cody, a resident of Bitter Springs, Arizona.

She works at Gary Yamamoto and lost her employment after the company closed down last week. Cody has one student in Page Middle School, and three students at Page High School.

“Thank you so much,” Cody wrote on the district’s Facebook Page. “We just did our pick up in Bitter Springs. Thank you for everything you all are doing at this time”

The meals are available to all kids 18 and under, but the children must be present to receive a meal.

The food delivery sites are the parking lot of Page High School’s main entrance. Coppermine on Navajo Route 20 turnoff to chapter house, Bitter Springs at the Navajo Housing Authority housing turnoff along State Route 89, and Cedar Ridge on State Route 89 at the turnoff for Navajo Route 6110.

Starting Tuesday, March 24, the school district also added the LeChee Chapter House parking lot to its meal distribution locations.

Kaibeto School is also distributing meals from Kaibeto Market, Kaibeto Chapter House, Arizona Route 98, milepost 334, Willow Springs on Navajo Route 21, and from House No. 121-1 in the NHA housing across from the rodeo ground, second street by the stop sign.

Beginning Tuesday, PUSD students who live in or near Kaibeto, can receive meals from the Kaibeto School.