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If remote schooling continues for the fall semester, Challis schools Food Service Director Sara Jones said her staff will be ready with hot meals for students, no matter how far they live from Challis.

“We got a new 12-crate milk cooler and 10 hot-cold insulated bags,” Jones said. The new equipment was donated by Dairy West, a dairy supplier in Meridian. Jones said they have donated food service equipment to many schools since the coronavirus reached Idaho.

The cooler and bags will allow Jones to ship out hot lunches to students who might need to have their lunches dropped off next year. Averaging 25 drop-off meals a day this spring while school was held remotely, food service workers have only been able to drop off cold lunches, due to state health standards on food preparation and temperature.

Jones doesn’t know if she will still be shipping out lunches next year, but if the coronavirus necessitates it she said her staff will be better prepared than they were this year.

The biggest challenge, according to Jones, was buying food in the amounts she needed. When the coronavirus first came to the U.S., food distributors experienced a rush of orders as grocery stores struggled to keep up with the demand from scared shoppers. Jones said the panic caused a food shortage, which made it difficult for her to feed Challis students.

Another challenge was having to account for extra costs, Jones said. She had to buy more to-go packaging than normal. Delivering meals to students using school buses costs time and gas. The extra expenditures stretched the district’s budget, but Jones said the experience will be prepare them for next year if delivery services need to continue.

A highlight of the altered meal experiences for Jones has been the parents. “There hasn’t been any negatives” from them, she said. Parents have been wholly supportive of her, her staff and other school workers as they try to feed and teach students outside of school. The community as a whole has been supportive, Jones said, with donations allowing the district to close out all outstanding lunch accounts for the year.

“There was even enough money left over for next year’s accounts,” Jones said.

The plan for next fall is to prepare for a regular school year, Jones said. However, if the students still aren’t allowed to return to classrooms, Jones said they can at least count on a healthy food program.

“I just wish more kids would take advantage of it,” Jones said.