School buses still running in Milton to deliver meals to kids

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MILTON, Vt. (WCAX) With schools across Vermont shuttered, folks are stepping up to help provide meals to students. Wednesday in Milton, more than 1,800 meals were handed out to kids. Our Ike Bendavid was there as the lunches were packed up and shipped out.

With schools being closed by coronavirus, many students don't have meals. But in Milton, they have an answer.

Crates of milk piled high and boxes filled with meals all get loaded up into 16 buses.

"It's really great seeing everyone come together and get this done," said Tricia St. Armand, the bus coordinator.

Loaded buses leave Milton Elementary School and deliver two meals to every Milton elementary and high school student.

"The buses will do their normal routes and the kids will come out and get their breakfast and lunch," St. Armand said.

"It's extremely important," said Steven Marinelli, the town school district food service director.

Marinelli and his team have been busy in the kitchen prepping the meals. He says this is all being paid for with federal money. It's an extension of the summer meal program. And Marinelli says handing out the meals now will not impact the service come summertime.

"We are just using a method that's in place. We are doing it in March instead of July and August, but it's working," he explained.

Marinelli says his crews are taking extra precautions when it comes to health code standards and they feel they are stocked up to continue to give free meals to the students in the community.

Reporter Ike Bendavid: How long will this last?
Steven Marinelli: That's the million-dollar question. Right now we are working toward an April 6th opening, but we are just playing it by ear.

Back on the bus, the preplanned routes are not only keeping the bus drivers working but also having teachers hand out the meals to continue a connection with their students.

"I really appreciate it because we get to see Ms. Diane. It's a little bit of normal in our isolated life," said Victoria Herman, a Milton parent.

But most of all, at each stop, it's a smile and a thank you from these community members who are getting some help.

"I mean, the grocery stores are pretty much empty and there is nothing there, so it's definitely helpful," said Amanda Welch of Milton.

"We are OK but there is the unknown we don't know," Herman said.

As the empty buses return, they will be filled back up to head out again the next day and keep that process going until schools open back up.

And Milton isn't alone. Other schools across the region are still working to feed children.

At Rutland City Public Schools on Wednesday, food service workers put together 1,000 bagged breakfasts and lunches to be delivered by the maintenance staff.