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Murray Journal

Murray schools, districts ensure students have meals during closure

May 26, 2020 11:36AM ● By Julie Slama

Utah Virtual Academy Student Services Administrator LuAnn Charles helps to load food to a school family at the online charter school’s drive-through food pantry during the coronavirus pandemic. (Julie Slama/City Journals)

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

In the parking lot of Utah Virtual Academy, cases of peanut butter, ramen, macaroni and cheese, oatmeal and other canned and boxed food were being distributed to 57 families in the school community — at a safe distance.

Grandmother Vikki Scarbrough, who has a third-grade grandson “who loves UTVA,” had pulled up to the online charter school’s drive-through food pantry March 26.

“I work as an Uber and Lyft driver and there are no people out so it means I’m not giving anyone rides and I’m not getting paid,” she said. “We’re appreciating the help with food now.”

UTVA Director Meghan Merideth said that they have found an overwhelming response to the pantry since they first provided their families food during Thanksgiving 2018. 

While the pantry usually is staffed by parent volunteers, on the drive-through distribution, it was Merideth and her children; volunteer Zane Shillington, who, with his wife Vicki stock the pantry; and other administrators, who filled car trunks with donations they received from the community as well as the Utah Food Bank. 

“We usually have monthly pick-ups in our office, but as our families have tripled during this time, and with social distancing, this made sense with how the world is now,” Merideth said. “We looked at our students, parents, and teachers to see how we could help. With whatever situations are going on, and with some empty shelves in grocery stores, this is a way we can continue to serve and help.”

Parent Jacob Wooldridge, who had his security job hours reduced after sites closed, is grateful for the help for his family, which included a junior high student at the school.

“A lot of can goods we can’t find in local grocery stores,” he said. “This should help us get by for several days.”

Those are people the school wants to help, in addition to the regular monthly families, said Student Services Administrator LuAnn Charles.

“We have families who have lost their jobs or are on pause because of the coronavirus pandemic or are struggling for whatever reason and situation, and we are here to help,” she said. “We are all in need of help at some time.”

The pantry has helped up to 150 families from the start of the school year until March 26.

“So many of the families are grateful, thankful they can have the basics so the family can see to other things and for students, to focus on academics,” she said. 

In Granite School District, spokesman Ben Horsley also recognized the need to help students.

“One of our biggest concerns with the home dismissal is food insecurity for many of our students,” he said. “We will continue to offer breakfast and lunch and grab and go format through the dismissal.”

He acknowledged Utah Jazz shooting guard Donovan Mitchell, who while quarantined with the coronavirus, contributed funds to the school district, which serves almost 68,000 students in 88 schools, to ensure that any child under the age of 19 can show up to a designated site to get a meal at no charge. 

“Donovan Mitchell from the Utah Jazz has graciously donated funds to cover families that were not eligible for a grab-and-go lunch so any student who needs food can receive it at this time,” he said.

Lunches will be distributed between 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. and breakfasts, 8 to 9 a.m. Locations can be found here.  

Murray School District also serves grab-and-go meals for its students, about 750 per day. The student lunch program runs weekdays from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at all schools as well as the Fireclay and Frontgate neighborhoods. Breakfast for the following day is given during the lunchtime.

During Murray District’s spring break, the Boys & Girls club provided meals at the Murray location, along with Buffalo Wild Wings in Sugar House giving students meals one day.

Several of the schools also have partnered with KidsEat to help students get food for the weekend, Murray District spokesman Doug Perry said.

For more community food resources, Granite has compiled links on the page: