Quarles touts feeding program at OHS

Kentucky Agricultural Commissioner Ryan Quarles helps out bringing sacked lunches to a car during the feeding program drive-thru service on Tuesday at Owensboro High School.

Kentucky Agricultural Commissioner Ryan Quarles was among a small crew Tuesday handing out meals to cars with anyone 18 and under at Owensboro High School.

Black and orange crates were filled with brown paper bags containing Pop-Tarts, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, an apple, a vegetable, fruit juices and a choice of white or chocolate milk.

Quarles said he’s traveling around to counties to see how their student feeding programs are going with schools out until at least April 20 because of the COVID-19 outbreak.

“We’re just wanting people to know that food is available and it’s here for you whether you’re on spring break or doing classroom assignments at home,” Quarles said.

OHS was the second feeding program stop for Quarles who visited Harrison County last week, which had already closed schools after six cases of the coronavirus were confirmed there.

The state announced on March 12 that all school districts would close for at least three weeks, reviving the feeding programs that are typically reserved for the summer.

Quarles said no decision has been made about what happens to the feeding program if the school closures continue after the three weeks are up.

“I hope that the (federal) authorities will have some guidance for us in a couple of weeks,” said Quarles, who was able to secure a USDA grant to allow the food program during spring break — a week traditionally not covered. “I think nationally we’re going to see the coronavirus play out in the next couple weeks and then we’ll see if we need to continue this strategy or do something different. But there is a very real possibility that school could be out for the rest of the year.”

OHS is one of two drive-through sites set up along with Owensboro Middle School. Both run from 11 a.m. to 1:20 p.m. and provide both breakfast and lunch at the same time. The other sites — 26 total locations — are mobile and the meals are served via Owensboro Public Schools bus or OPS labeled vehicle.

At OHS, 500 meals were prepared for that site but there were 2,000 meals in total for the district.

OHS Principal John DeLacey said 78% of the high school’s 1,300 students are considered eligible for free or reduced lunch, making the feeding program essential to its pupil population.

“We are very dependent on these free and reduced lunches — for sure,” said DeLacey, who was there handing out meals with Quarles and lunchroom staff. “We always want kids to have access to food and be able to eat. We know for a lot of kids it’s important to have that school structure and the food each and every day.”

Along with the city schools, Daviess County Public Schools are also providing meals under the same guidelines.

“It’s just great how the local community and the branches of government are coming together to make sure kids are getting food,” DeLacey said.

Owensboro Public Schools will be serving meals Monday through Friday from March 16 through April 3. Breakfast will be served from 8:15 to 10:05 a.m. and lunch will be served from 11 a.m. to 1:20 p.m.

Don Wilkins, dwilkins@messenger-inquirer.com, 270-691-7299

{span}Don Wilkins, dwilkins@messenger-inquirer.com, 270-691-7299{/span}

Don Wilkins, dwilkins@messenger-inquirer.com, 270-691-7299

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