Sullivan schools give out almost 4,000 meals Monday

Rick Wagner • Mar 24, 2020 at 8:30 AM

BLOOMINGDALE  — Sullivan County Schools gave out nearly 4,000 meals to 651 youth 18 and younger across the county Monday, the first day of twice-weekly meal distribution done because of the coronavirus closure.

In addition, officials said meals in the future also may be distributed at school bus stops in addition to five schools.

Meanwhile, the Board of Education plans a called meeting Thursday at 6:30 p.m. to address things such as paying school nutrition workers and others during protracted school closures designed to flatten the curve of novel coronavirus, COVID-19. Director of Schools David Cox said it remains undecided and uncertain how the meeting will be handled but that it would have video and audio links and/or would allow folks to phone in remotely.

Cox said he was in a phone conference with Tennessee Commission of Education Penny Schwinn on Monday and that no official announcement has come on how long the state would mandate schools remain closed and how long Sullivan would remain closed. Virginia has called off school the rest of the spring semester.

“We’re just trying to get things done and follow guidance as best we can,” Cox said. “We’ve had an extraordinary response from our staff as to asking, ‘How can we help?’ ”

Among the team of helpers at Ketron Elementary School were Ketron cafeteria worker Emma Pogue, Ketron cafeteria manager Angie Jarrett, Ketron kindergarten teacher Donna Greer, Miller Perry Elementary Principal Mike Wilson, Ketron Principal Sherri DeVault and Assistant Principal Cathy Anderson.

“There just aren’t procedures for what we need to do,” Cox said from Blountville between phone conference calls and meetings Monday.

Wilson said, “This is all uncharted territory.”


Volunteers distributed meals for 112 students at Ketron Elementary, one of five meal distribution school sites. The others were Rock Springs Elementary, the largest distribution site with 192; Blountville Elementary with 96; Bluff City Elementary with 180; and Sullivan East High with 71. The sites were chosen after an online survey measured demand for such meals. The events run 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Mondays and Thursdays.

Students get three breakfasts and three lunches each.

Cox said there are no plans to use buses to deliver food for now but that those helping with the distribution are delivering some meals as requested by contacting Amber Anderson, supervisor of school nutrition, at (423) 354-1015 or [email protected] Based on an online survey and other factors, she had estimated up to 200 students served at each distribution point each day.

Anderson said all told 651 students received six meals, for a total of 3,906 meals. The program is to run until school resumes or until the end of the school year in May, whichever comes first. It will give out three breakfasts and three lunches for each child 18 or younger who is brought to the distribution points. Kingsport just finished the first week of its program but by law can’t distribute items since it is on spring break this week, which Sullivan was on last week.

Come March 30, however, distribution in Kingsport will resume. The federal rules require meals be supplied to any child, regardless of residency or enrollment. 

“It’s not been the buses, but we had people delivering food,” Cox said. He said that program may be expanded to deliver food to bus stop sites.

“We’re going to prioritize the greatest need and build out from there,” Cox said.


At Ketron, volunteers for each student gave out three lunches with peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, snack crackers, carrot sticks, cheese sticks, juice, fruit and milk, while breakfasts were cereal, milk, fruit and juice.

Volunteers said the stream of cars was steady, including one point late in the morning when three larger vehicles pulled up with seven children each.

One of those, a van, was driven by Julie Keeton, of Bloomingdale, whose seven children range from a freshman in high school to a kindergartener. Keeton said she’s trying to keep things as normal as possible while protecting her family, including frequent hand washings. After a trip to the grocery store, she said she washes her hands, changes clothes, takes a shower and washes the clothes she wore.

She said most shopping trips involve going to multiple stores because of certain items being sold out.   



The site administrator has disabled comments for this story.
Kingsport Times News Videos