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4J’s Food Service Team Surpasses 150,000 Free Meals Served

4J’s school lunch heroes feed thousands of children, provide critical community service

School Lunch Heroes Video

Friday, May 1 is national School Lunch Hero Day. Thanks to our school lunch heroes, the food service staff who are serving up free meals every day across 4J—more than 150,000 so far!

Less than a year after making the change to self-operation of our school meal program, Eugene School District 4J’s Nutrition Services Department this spring was faced with another challenging transition, this time an unexpected one.

When school buildings closed in mid-March due to the coronavirus pandemic, the nutrition services team quickly pivoted and came up with a new way to continue feeding students, many of whom rely on school meals for much of their daily nutrition.

The food service team retooled over a single weekend, and began producing and distributing free grab-and-go meals for children, starting at six school sites on the first day buildings were closed. Soon after, the number of meal distribution sites was more than doubled to offer families greater access and convenience.

The kitchens have adopted a team approach to meal production tasks. One food service team processes whole fresh fruits and vegetables at Chávez Elementary School to distribute at sites across the district. Another team is focused on baking items, such as scratch blueberry muffins using frozen berries and a local flour blend from Camas Mill.

This week, 4J food service staff served their 150,000th grab-and-go meal, and began to offer hot meals—including fan favorites such as chicken strips, cheeseburgers, burritos and pizza—for the first time since school buildings closed.

Providing free, accessible, nutritious meals to students is an essential service, especially in these exceptionally difficult times. Before the pandemic, more than half of 4J’s elementary students qualified for free school meals. Now, with students not in school buildings for breakfast and lunch, and more than one-in-six Oregon workers unemployed as a result of the pandemic, the need is even greater.

Eugene School District 4J’s free grab-and-go meals are available for all students and youth 18 and younger. Breakfast and lunch are offered to-go on weekdays from 11 a.m. to 12 p.m., at numerous sites across the district. Families can choose the location that is most convenient for them, regardless of where they live or attend school.

School Lunch Heroes Video
Free Meals for Children and Youth
Nutrition Services News 

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