Summer meals program gets Northwood head start

J. Patrick Eaken

        Northwood food service director Emilia Bires says that when the school bus comes down the street to deliver meals, it generates excitement.
        As long as the district is shut down because of the coronavirus pandemic, bus deliveries will start at 11 a.m.
“They’re excited. They see us coming down the block like an ice cream truck. We’re getting a lot of positive remarks from parents. We’ve actually got a really cute picture sent to us by a student that we put on our Twitter account,” Bires said.
        “We did over 1,200 meals in the four days that we offered the meals. It went very well. Our highest serving was on Friday, we hit 520 students.”
        The breakfast and lunch program is for children up to age 18, served from 11 a.m. to noon at Brentwood Park and various school bus stops around town. There is no need to RSVP, “just come and be fed,” says a district flyer.
Northwood was on spring break last week, so the service will pick up again on Monday. Bires says the program has been a collaboration between two departments.
        “We have all of our staff working because they are actually contracted, so there are seven staff that are working, and we still have our transportation employees working so they are on the bus and making sure that we get deliveries to all the students and families. So, it actually is a collaboration between the transportation coordinator and the food           service, and the school district is supporting us doing this.
“We buy the food through our government funded money and GFS (Gordon Food Service) is one the vendors that we use. Then, actually while we were offering meals, Rossford schools wasn’t able to do it, so we had Rossford give us donations from their food service, and also Penta County (Vocational School), so they are sending families to one of our sites that we are serving at Brentwood, which is a little park there near where the old Lark school was that was torn down. So, we actually have students coming from Rossford and that area getting meals there.
        “We are driving to every bus stop where we pick up kids and we are letting the parents know where our buses are at. We have four buses going, two on one side and two on the other side. So, everyone is actually waiting at the bus stops.
        “I say hats off to the food service staff and transportation, and to our superintendent (Jason Kozina) — he’s been 100 percent behind me. We do it together and we know what we need to do. It’s been really nice. We had a nice week. I’m buying food right now so we can start back up on March 30. It’s nice networking, you know. We do it together. It’s a team effort.”
        For Bires, who has been with Northwood’s food service department for 16 years and director for 14 years, this was a no-brainer.
        “When you think about it, I always say, ‘Whatever you can do, it’s not just me, it’s everyone doing it — put a plan in place and everybody will follow and make sure it gets done.’
        “I love what I do. I have a passion and I have the staff that supports me. I learned from a great chef years ago because I always worked in restaurants and I had an opportunity to go to cooking school. I enjoy what I do, and I have a great network of leadership in our district and that makes me feel good because you can do good things when you have people supporting you,” Bires said.
        “I like kids, I like the family we’re with. I have my own food pantry I helped start two years ago so I have donations coming from there. I did the summer feeding program for the last four years in Northwood, so there are a lot of good things that we’re bringing to the families in Northwood.”
        She has taken this program further, but long before schools shut down because of the coronavirus epidemic. A summer feeding program serving breakfast and lunch runs from the first week of June through the first week in August for children up to the age of 18 at the Brentwood Shelter House and the high school.
        “I went to Greg Clark five years ago and I said I wanted to do a summer feeding program, and he said, ‘Why?’ and I said, ‘Because we need to help our district for one.’ Two, he asked me to excel and see what we can do for our families.
        “I said that I was going to run it one time and do it myself and it went from there. Greg was very knowledgeable and aggressive as well and he made a lot of difference at Northwood Schools. I did this because I know there is a need and actually, we are doing very well with that. We see a lot of students, and other districts come to our feedings. We have Genoa schoolchildren coming to our feedings in the summer, we have Lake schoolchildren coming down, so we have opened it up to everyone.”
        Bires can be reached at 419-691-3888, ext. 1630 or


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