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Butler cafeteria staffers lauded for feeding kids

Forty food service workers gather outside the Butler Senior High School cafeteria Wednesday to receive praise and gratitude for providing 200,000 free meals to hungry students in the Butler Area School District since March 17. The workers were treated to a pizza lunch and ice cream.

School and elected officials forked over a heaping helping of praise Wednesday morning for the 40 food service workers who have provided 200,000 free meals to hungry students in the Butler Area School District since March 17.

The workers, many in hair nets, took a break from packing boxes for pickup and distribution to students' homes to gather outside the Butler Senior High School cafeteria for the kudos.

Brian White, school superintendent, said while Friday would be the last day of the school year for the district's students, the food service workers will continue working five days per week until Aug. 23 to prepare the meals that feed students in need.

He said boxes containing four breakfast and lunch meals are delivered Monday and Wednesday, and six meals are delivered on Friday to carry the student through the weekend.

The program is funded through the U.S. Department of Agriculture, White said.

The school's 24 police officers drive a collective 250 miles per day through the 150-square-mile district to deliver the boxes.

Any student, not just those who get free or reduced lunches, can sign up for the program, which White said is vital for families in the district.

“We had 50 kids sign up last weekend,” White said. “Lots of kids rely on this food every day.”

Mary Waggoner, school board vice president, saluted the dedicated workers who feed students struggling with hunger every day.

“There is something very simple, but great, in providing the meals,” Waggoner said.

Al Vavro, board president, said he was amazed when he volunteered with the food service workers for a few days.

“What you do is unbelievable. The second day I was here, you made 2,000 sandwiches,” Vavro said. “There are no words that are really enough to say thank you.”

Tabitha Reefer, child nutrition outreach coordinator with the Greater Pittsburgh Food Bank, said Emily Brittain Elementary School finished 18th out of 271 area schools that participated in the food bank's School Breakfast Challenge.The goal, Reefer said, was to increase participation in breakfast programs at the schools. She said Emily Brittain came in first in Butler County when it increased participation in the school's breakfast program by 17 percent for one year, beginning October 2018.She presented a plaque to food worker Michele Feidt, who works at Emily Brittain.Feidt said many of the school's students struggle with food insecurity and would inhale their breakfasts each morning.“It gives them a better start to their day,” Feidt said. “They're fueled instead of sitting in class hungry.”Bobbi Ritts, district food services director, said events were held to attract Emily Brittain students and their families to the school's breakfast program.“Then we brought Michele on board, and I really think she made the kids feel welcome and got involved with them,” Ritts said.Carol Henry, who has served meals at the intermediate high school for almost three years, said it's nice to be recognized for feeding the hungry students, even while they are at home.Henry said Butler Intermediate High School students are ravenous when they come through her line when school is in session, so she knows they are hungry at home, too.“You're giving them something to keep them going,” she said of the delivered lunches.The workers enjoyed a pizza lunch and ice cream donated by Edwards' Soft Serve next door to the campus.The workers were presented with a proclamation from county officials.

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Brian White, Butler school superintendant, thanks food service workers for their effort during the pandemic. They will continue preparing meals for students until Aug. 23.