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Food for Thought: Feeding the children of San Juan Island

The San Juan School District’s Food for Thought food distribution program is one of the district’s responses to the changes since COVID-19 has affected school safety.

Food For Thought is a program designed to meet the nutritional needs of all children in grades K-12 on San Juan Island. The services for the school are open to all children on the island, between the ages of 1-18, whether or not they are students enrolled in the district, according to Special Services Director Becky Bell.

“Since many parents are choosing to home-school their kids right now Food for Thought program is here for them too,” Bell said.

The school district’s website describes how the kitchen staff is changing the way the district meets the needs of San Juan youth.

“There are three places on the island where parents can drive up and get meals that have already been prepared,” Bell said. “Many parents wouldn’t know what to do without these services.”

The Food for Thought Program was created by the school as a means to feed staff and students focusing on health, sustainability, education and fiscal responsibility, according to the school’s website.

“Our district-run program offers nutrient-rich whole foods on the salad bar, homemade bread, baked goods and sauces — all unprocessed, locally-sourced, and prepared by a knowledgable staff with the help of culinary-minded students,” the website states.

In non-COVID times, the program would host community dinners with proceeds going to the Student Chef Internship and the program itself, according to the website. Executive Chef Andrew Radzialowski would mentor the children in the internship program. He has worked for more than 15 years in the food, beverage and hospitality industry, according to the school website.

When COVID shut down the school, the usual processes were halted and the kitchen staff began to offer emergency sack lunches for all children. The program has evolved slightly since the lockdown began in March 2020 to allow for two free options for lunch and a breakfast, which can be picked up from the school during school days, the website explains. For weekends, holidays and breaks, there’s the 36 weekends program. More information about that is available at https://www.sji36weekends.org/.

More information about the Food for Thought program can be found at https://www.sjisd.wednet.edu/domain/32, or contact Liz Varvaro by calling 360-370-7106 or emailing elizabethvarvaro@sjisd.org. The San Juan School District’s bilingual website gives current updates for grade level openings and school services available for all children. For more information about other programs offered by the school district, visit https://www.sjisd.wednet.edu/.

San Juan Island School District Superintendent Fred Wood gave an overview of the district’s schedule for the return to in-person learning in his press release dated Dec. 11, 2020.

“The key phrase is ‘at this time,’ as we have all learned that our situation can change rapidly,” Woods wrote.

Friday Harbor Elementary School kindergarten teacher Jamie Rice said her online class of 15 students has been showing up every morning for a zoom meeting at 8:55.

“I couldn’t be more proud of all my students!” Rice stated. “And the parent involvement and support is tremendously helpful.”

Rice explained how she and her fellow teachers are trying to incorporate new ways of learning, with videos, tutorials, and movement.

“The important thing is that we are doing our best to stay connected,” Rice said.

Mandi Johnson contributed to this article.