Washington Court House City Schools (WCHCS) Food Service Director Stephanie Lanning and her staff were honored on Monday during the regularly-scheduled board of education meeting by the Children’s Hunger Alliance with an award for their efforts to feed the students.
According to childrenshungeralliance.org, the organization was founded in 1970 as a statewide non-profit dedicated to ending childhood hunger. The organization partners with others in Ohio to provide nutritious meals to at-risk children who need them most. The organization helps daycare providers, daycare centers, local school districts and after school and summer programs provide balanced, healthy meals to children in their care.
During the meeting, Thomas Ben — School and Summer Nutrition Manager of Children’s Hunger Alliance — explained he first visited the county and Lanning in 2018 where she explained her vision for the students of the district.
“It was good to hear what her vision was for the district because that went right along with what we want to see happen,” Ben said. “So we were able to introduce some thoughts and ideas and she took that with her own vision and ran with it. We have seen some great success here. Whether you know it or not, Cherry Hill was one who is doing breakfast in the classroom and have been doing that now for about two-and-a-half years. Lanning received a grant to accommodate some of the equipment that was needed to keep the food at a proper temperature and transport the food closer to the classroom.”
Since this began, participation in breakfast has “skyrocketed” well over 80 percent prior to 2020 and the COVID-19 pandemic. The Children’s Hunger Alliance representative said that due to those numbers combined with other efforts from Lanning to increase breakfast participation and the Big Blue Bus program, they wanted to honor her and the district.
“The Big Blue Bus is just a fantastic investment, I do not know how it started, but it is paying dividends for your children,” Ben said. “With all that happening in the district, we wanted to recognize (Lanning) and her staff. And she realizes it isn’t just her, it takes a team of people to do this. So we want to recognize her for this and in case you are wondering if I go all over to school boards to do this, I have 133 school districts in the southwest region and only 14 of the schools are receiving this recognition.”
Lanning also took time to talk to the board and Ben about her efforts at Cherry Hill to implement breakfast in all classrooms.
“Craig Maddux and his staff at Cherry Hill love it,” Lanning said. “He and his staff were wonderful in implementing because we tried three or four different ways to do the breakfast. The first year we didn’t charge the students, but we did get reimbursed for the meals and it was on a different level and we needed to keep track of who was eating. So the teachers have been very helpful in marking the kids as they ate. Then we decided to continue it last year when COVID-19 hit and everyone was getting free breakfasts and eating in the classrooms anyways. We are anxious to see what the staff comes up with for next year as far as how we are going to do breakfast, but we are going back to regular meals in the cafeteria. Congress has also made it okay for us to have free breakfast and free lunch for all students this next year.”
Finally, Lanning also talked about the Big Blue Bus. The WCHCS Big Blue Bus Summer Food Service Program was first launched in May of 2019. As previously reported, throughout the life of the program, the Big Blue Bus has done more than just serve food. There has been a free book store provided along with educational opportunities courtesy of different volunteers from the community.
“Our average meals per day — which includes a sack lunch out of the bus and we are putting a ready to eat breakfast in as well because we have been allowed to do that and the kids gets two meals — is about 1,300,” Lanning said. “We also are serving the football team for after practice so they can grab a lunch and are also serving to some church camps during the summer. It helps them feed their kids and helps our numbers. We are also feeding Bloomingburg and Jeffersonville. My staff love to feed children, but sometimes we send them to different places — that is the staff chasing the kids to make sure we feed as many of the county children as we can. If you go into a McDonald’s of Fayette County and you see the owner, Nick Epifano, make sure you thank him personally. He has provided all of the paper products for the Big Blue Bus and more for the district.”
Following the information from Lanning, the various board of education members thanked Lanning for her work in feeding all of the children in Fayette County. A few members also shared where they saw the Big Blue Bus or shared a personal conversation they had with someone impacted by the meals from the district.
As previously reported, the schedule for the Big Blue Bus from the beginning of the summer is as follows:
—From 10:30-10:55 a.m. at Riverbirch Green, 1485 Delaware St.
—From 11-11:25 a.m. at Rose Avenue, 412 Rose Ave.
—From 11:30-11:55 a.m. at Eyman Park, 221 Eyman Park Drive
—From 12-12:25 p.m. at Carnegie Public Library, 127 S. North St.
—From 12:30-12:55 p.m. at Bell Aire Intermediate, 1120 High St.
—From 1-1:25 p.m. at Grace Community Church, 525 Glenn Ave.
—From 1:30-1:55 p.m. at Christman Park, 1183 S. Elm St.
Other Fayette County locations where meals will be delivered/provided includes:
—Jeffersonville: Grace Meadows Apartments (by the pool), 467 Woodsview Drive, from 11:30 a.m. to 12 p.m.
—Bloomingburg: Bloomingburg Village offices, 62 Main St., from 12:30 to 1 p.m.
—Washington Court House: Washington High School Cafeteria, 400 S. Elm St., from 11 a.m. to 12 p.m.
Stay with the Record-Herald for more coverage of the Washington Court House City Schools Board of Education meeting.
Reach Martin Graham at (740) 463-9684 or on Twitter @MartiTheNewsGuy.