Public schools segue to summer feeding programs

HELPING HANDS: Asheville City Schools nutrition staff prepared, packaged and distributed meals to students when buildings were closed due to COVID-19 and will continue through the summer break. Photo courtesy of ACS

Since schools took classes online in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, classrooms have sat empty, and once-bustling hallways and raucous gymnasiums have been silent. But in many Western North Carolina school buildings, cafeteria kitchens have never been busier as districts stepped up to continue providing meals to students through the end of the calendar year, then transitioned to summer feeding programs tweaked to meet current needs.

“We have been running meals since schools closed in March,” says Ashley-Michelle Thublin, executive director of communications for Asheville City Schools. “The last day of the 2019-20 calendar was Friday, May 29, and we opened our summer meal sites Monday, June 1, so there was no lapse. It was a seamless transition.”

Likewise, Henderson County Public Schools’ last day of classes was technically Friday, June 5, and the district’s Summer Feeding Program kicked in Monday, June 8. “In the past couple of years, we ran our [U.S. Department of Agriculture] Summer Feeding Program from physical sites,” says Molly McGowan Gorsuch, public information officer for Henderson County Public Schools. “We also had a Meals on the Bus route to reach kids who could not get to a physical location due to transportation or safety issues over COVID-19, we moved pretty rapidly from one bus to three, and the numbers that we saw over the school closure will inform what we do over the summer.”

Those numbers are keeping school nutrition staff busy preparing, cooking and packaging student lunches and breakfasts for weekdays as well as packing extra meals on Fridays to cover weekends. Asheville City Schools expects to serve about 500 lunches and 500 breakfasts a day from its three prep sites — Asheville High School, Asheville Middle School and Isaac Dickson Elementary.

“We served over 50,000 meals while school buildings were shut down and are on target to serve over 90,000 this summer,” Thublin says. ACS distributes grab-and-go meals from 11:30 a.m-1:30  p.m. at Klondyke Apartments, Herb Watts Park and Hillcrest Apartments; from 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m. at Pisgah View Apartments; and from 1:15-1:45 p.m. at Crowell Apartments; plus a drive-thru pickup at Isaac Dickson Elementary from 1-3 p.m.

In Henderson County, Hendersonville Middle School and Apple Valley Middle School serve as meal prep and pickup sites, and there are three bus delivery routes run by district drivers. “We saw about 700 meals a day being prepared at those schools and expect to increase that by about 20% over the summer,” Gorsuch reports. (For more, visit

Buncombe County Schools began its summer meals program June 4, combining breakfast and lunch and with modifications to pickup locations. Friday meal packages include enough lunches and breakfasts to cover the weekend. All meals are free to any child younger than 18. (For more, visit


Thanks for reading through to the end…

We share your inclination to get the whole story. For the past 25 years, Xpress has been committed to in-depth, balanced reporting about the greater Asheville area. We want everyone to have access to our stories. That’s a big part of why we've never charged for the paper or put up a paywall.

We’re pretty sure that you know journalism faces big challenges these days. Advertising no longer pays the whole cost. Media outlets around the country are asking their readers to chip in. Xpress needs help, too. We hope you’ll consider signing up to be a member of Xpress. For as little as $5 a month — the cost of a craft beer or kombucha — you can help keep local journalism strong. It only takes a moment.

About Kay West
Kay West was a freelance journalist in Nashville for more than 30 years, contributing writer for the Nashville Scene, StyleBlueprint Nashville, Nashville correspondent for People magazine, author of five books and mother of two happily launched grown-up kids. To kick off 2019 she put Tennessee in her rear view mirror, drove into the mountains of WNC, settled in West Asheville and appreciates that writing offers the opportunity to explore and learn her new home. She looks forward to hiking trails, biking greenways, canoeing rivers, sampling local beer and cheering the Asheville Tourists.

Before you comment

The comments section is here to provide a platform for civil dialogue on the issues we face together as a local community. Xpress is committed to offering this platform for all voices, but when the tone of the discussion gets nasty or strays off topic, we believe many people choose not to participate. Xpress editors are determined to moderate comments to ensure a constructive interchange is maintained. All comments judged not to be in keeping with the spirit of civil discourse will be removed and repeat violators will be banned. See here for our terms of service. Thank you for being part of this effort to promote respectful discussion.

Leave a Reply

To leave a reply you may Login with your Mountain Xpress account, connect socially or enter your name and e-mail. Your e-mail address will not be published. All fields are required.