Submitted by Rene Carroll
Spending time with family in the kitchen cooking during the holidays is a tradition for many. And thanks to an extension of USDA Federal funding to Washougal School District and some WSD ingenuity, food kits will be created for Washougal families who participate in the district’s meal distribution program, to prepare meals together.
“Typically, we would not offer meal service when schools are closed and staff are on break,” said Margaret Rice, WSD CTE Director. “But with the pandemic we have seen a higher need and each week provide food for 400 students through our meal takeout and delivery options. We were excited to get the news that the program can extend over the winter break. Our team was compelled to take advantage of this opportunity to provide additional food service for children 18 and under in our community.” WSD offered additional meal pick up Friday, December 18 and will again on Monday December 28 for students participating in the program.
The challenge came in providing a week’s worth of meals on the second distribution date while WSD staff are on break and the facilities closed. Culinary services employee, Sheri Cranford, had attended a State child nutrient webinar and heard that other districts were offering grocery style food kits over the holiday break. “She brought the idea to the team and everyone grabbed hold of it,” said Rice. “So, our students will receive fresh components and recipes to create their own delicious meals at home.”
The next challenge was to create meals for a week with limited staff and access to facilities available to cook them. “We believe we’ve been able to secure enough of our staff coupled with some outstanding community and student volunteers to get the job done,” Rice said. “It has been a real showing of support and teamwork. The proposed menu for the two weeks of Winter break include items like Penne Pasta with Marinara Sauce, Beef Vegetable Stew, Cheesy Green Enchiladas, Ham & Cheese Ciabatta and Chicken Ranch Sandwiches with build your own meal kits with ideas like, English muffin Pepperoni Pizza, Chicken Yakisoba with veggies, Italian Sausage Bowtie Pasta and Carnitas Street Tacos.
“We created simple, playful recipe directions to accomplish the dishes,” said Johnattan Curiel, WDS Sous chef. “And we hope families will share with us the finished product using #Washougalchefsintraining on social media.”
“The idea is to encourage students to spend time together with their families in the kitchen,” said Rice. “There is a special feeling of togetherness you get while cooking. We hope these meals will not only nourish our students but provide some joy and a fun activity to do while at home during the break.”
The food service meals have changed significantly since they transitioned to scratch cooking at the start of the school year. “It feels like we are providing a better, healthier product,” said Glenda Huddleston, Food Service. “The meals are fresh and not processed and prepackaged. It is so not really more work but different work, and so much more rewarding.”
“It definitely feels fulfilling to be helping our students and community in this way,” Curiel added.
The federal food program has been extended through June 2021.