Fort Stewart School Meal Program eases burdens on families

Photo By Sgt. 1st Class Jeffrey Smith | Teya Ware (left) and Shaneka Smalls, both with Kessler Elementary School’s cafeteria staff, work to serve Fort Stewart Families free breakfast and lunch meals for the community’s children March 25, 2020 as a result of the recent coronavirus-triggered school closings at Fort Stewart, Georgia. The Fort Stewart Meal Program is providing free grab-and-go lunch and breakfast meals to children in the ages zero through 18 years old for as long as the coronavirus-induced school closures continue.

In response to school closings due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Fort Stewart School Meal Program is issuing free lunch and breakfast meals to Military children in all ages below 18 years-of-age at Fort Stewart, Georgia.

The program began issuing free meals on March 23 and will continue throughout the pandemic-induced school closures. There are four locations at Fort Stewart where the meals are being handed out, and the hours are 11 a.m. through 1 p.m., Monday through Friday.

The meals are also slated to be handed out on normal off days like teacher training days and spring break.
Families can expect children below the age of 18 to receive lunch for that day and breakfast for the following day.

The four locations to pick up the meals are Murray Elementary School, Diamond Elementary School, Kessler Elementary School, and Building 5601 on Davis Avenue.

So far, the program has been well-received by the community, and has proven to be an invaluable benefit.
“This has taken a weight off my shoulders. I don’t have to stand in the kitchen three times a day, and it’s a nice break to get out of the house for a little while,” said Caitlin Stoneking, Fort Stewart Family resident and spouse of a Soldier from the 385th Military Police Battalion.

Alyssa Connell, a Fort Stewart mom and spouse of a Soldier with 3rd Infantry Division, added, “I think this is really great to have this set up for the kids while they are out of school. It’s really, really helpful.”

Kim Blackmon, a substitute teacher and a volunteer at the free meal distribution point at Diamond Elementary School, said, “I think this program is incredible. I’m a former Military spouse myself, and I’ve experienced some hard times at different times, so this is phenomenal because there are some kids throughout this county and on this installation who, if they don’t get their breakfast and their lunch from school, then they may not be fed. This is huge! This is actually needed all over America.”

Culinary workers and volunteers like Blackmon have handed out hundreds of meals each day since the start, but are happy to do so because it is a way to help the community.

“This is a good thing for the kids, but for the parents as well, because they don’t have to cook more, especially at this time of the year,” said Shaneka Smalls, Kessler Elementary School cafeteria manager, “But I really enjoy doing this, because it’s all for the babies!”