WAPS summer meal program marches on despite pandemic

WAPS Summer Meals

School nutrition worker Mary Tenorio hands out meals at W-K Elementary earlier this summer.

Sixteen sites. Nearly 1,000 meals a day. Hundreds and hundreds of smiling faces. 

Despite facing several obstacles due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the School Nutrition staff of Winona Area Public Schools has persevered and is continuing to feed hundreds of families both in and around Winona. 

The summer meal program, which was expanded this summer to deliver free student meals to 16 sites in Winona and the surrounding areas, is handing out, on average, 950 meals a day. 

The sites include school sites in town as well as areas accessible to the public, including the Winona Public Library, the East Recreation Center and Sobieski Park, and living communities such as Maplewood Townhomes, Hidden Valley and the Belleview Apartments. 

Deliveries are also made to rural areas, including Stockton, Rollingstone, Wilson and Ridgeway.

The meals are free to all students 18 and under, regardless of the school they attend or income level.

Summer meal program

A family thanks the WAPS School Nutrition staff for the summer meal program.

“It is a great program,” said Stephanie Berg, who has opened her home to several children in the community during the day while their parents work. “The meals are nutritional and the kids like the fact that it reminds them of being in school. The food also helps curb the cost, especially with having several children added to our group due to the pandemic.”

Berg purchased several cafeteria trays so her children and their friends can enjoy their lunches. 

“They all eat around the table like at school for now,” Berg said. 

The group’s favorites include chicken nuggets, chicken sandwiches, taco meals and juice bowls.

The summer meal program will run through Aug. 14, and families can still sign up by visiting the summer meal website at WinonaSchools.org. Children will receive lunch and the following day's breakfast. Refrigeration is needed to maintain safe food temperatures.