East Lansing Public Schools provided more than 500 bags of food to some students’ families for Thanksgiving after Superintendent Dori Leyko put out a call for district families to help.
Leyko called the response “tremendous.” She sent out a request to ELPS families on Nov. 13, and within 24 hours, 110 families had signed up to provide five bags of food each — a total of 550 bags.
The district provided donors with a recommended list of food items, primarily non-perishable foods such as cereal, granola bars, and canned vegetables. These items have a longer shelf-life and are easier to store since they do not need to be refrigerated.
The 550 bags of food will help families who rely on ELPS food distribution make it through Thanksgiving week. When schools closed in March due to the pandemic, the district began distributing food to make sure families – particularly those that had relied on the free and reduced lunch program – continued to receive meals. The program permits schools to purchase food and receive a reimbursement from the federal government.
Since March, the food services workers for ELPS have worked ordering food and packaging it for distribution. Leyko and some of her colleagues have manned the weekly food distribution drive up where families can pick up the meals – a package including seven breakfasts and seven lunches.
Writing this week over email, ELPS School Board Secretary Chris Martin to ELi that the food distribution has been a huge undertaking made possible to due the “extraordinary efforts” of the superintendent, administrators, and many of teachers and staff volunteering their time.
For Thanksgiving, Leyko thought it was best to distribute two weeks’ worth of food — a total of 14 meals — at once. She wanted to give those who ran the food distribution a break in the lead-up to the holiday. The food service workers have been without much time off for months.
But, after doing some research, it seemed that it would not be possible to distribute 14 days’ worth of food under federal guidelines. That’s when the ELPS community stepped up to make bags that could feed families for the second week.
On Nov. 19, the day of distribution, donors dropped off their bags at East Lansing High School between 9 and 10 a.m. Some bags were made with special dietary restrictions in mind, such as vegetarianism and gluten intolerance.
Meal deliveries took place between 10:30 and 11:30 a.m. Edgewood Village also sent a representative to pick up meals on behalf of the community and the East Lansing Kiwanis Club and Rotary Club helped deliver the bags to 1855 Place, Spartan Village, and Deerpath Apartments. The two organizations have been reliable volunteers throughout the pandemic and have partnered with other local groups to create weekend kits of food that they also distribute.
Then, families arrived at the ELHS drive-thru to pick up food between noon and 1 p.m. By the end, almost all the bags were gone.
Other families in the district will also receive Thanksgiving food baskets as part of a separate effort.
Leyko hopes to expand this effort for winter break, which will run from Dec. 21 into the new year. She will put more information forward in the upcoming weeks and will expand the call for the entire East Lansing community to pitch in.
ELi will provide that information once it becomes available.
In the meantime, check out our reporting on community members caring for each other.
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