Cooks keep meal kits going to families before Christmas, even through blizzard conditions

The meal kits are available to all students in the Brainerd School District with all the students on distance learning. Funding for the kids means they are an option at no charge to families and provide breakfast and lunch meals for students for seven days.

Shane Barclays loads bottles of juice into a waiting car Wednesday, Dec. 23 while fellow Forestview Food Service workers Amy Carlson and Michelle Caponi wait with their bags of food. Meals are distributed every Wednesday at the middle school. Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch

Faced with snow driven by gusty winds and a plunging temperature, cooks with the Brainerd School District pushed aside any idea of calling a snow day or canceling because of dangerous wind chills.

Instead they were bundled up and stood outside providing their own curbside pickup for meal kits to families with children in the district Wednesday, Dec. 23. They wanted to make sure the families would have the food in time for Christmas.

Wednesday, the school staff was working against time and the weather with deteriorating road conditions across the region. At Forestview Middle School in Baxter, the meal kit curbside service was a well-oiled machine with tasks divided by staff members. As vehicles pulled up, they were asked how many children were in their family and then the meal kits were quickly loaded in the vehicle.

Each kit contains a half-gallon of juice, a half-gallon of milk, and 14 meals — seven breakfast items and seven lunch items, or a week’s worth of food. The kits provide fresh fruits and vegetables. When the district went to distance learning for all students, the kits were made available to all the students. Cooks from across the district participate in putting the kits together and then they are set up for pickup at Forestview Middle School and the Brainerd High School.


Sandra Jensen, food service assistant, said each week participation seems to grow. She said they are doing close to 21,000 meals now based on averaging close to 1,500 meal kits going out to families Wednesdays.

“During the pandemic, we’ve received funding to feed all students without charge,” Jensen said, noting they offered the meals when they had the hybrid model of students in classes in person and at home, but now with all the students at home, the effort ramped up.

Michelle Caponi loads bags of food into a waiting car Wednesday, Dec. 23, while fellow Forestview Food Service workers Wendy Anderson waits with the milk and Shane Barclays holds bottles of juice. Every Wednesday, meals are distributed from the middle school. Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch

Parents can drive up and let them know how many meals they need for their children and the cooks provide the curbside delivery service.

“We work as a big team getting everything prepared for Wednesdays when these meals all go out. So each kitchen, we have 13 kitchens, each kitchen is taking a part in putting all of this together,” Jensen said. “... We’re so proud of the dedication of our employees. They are just caring people and they just want to make sure everyone is fed through this time.”

Jensen said they are really looking forward to the day when everyone can return to the schools.


Renee Richardson, managing editor, may be reached at 218-855-5852 or Follow on Twitter at

Renee Richardson is managing editor at the Brainerd Dispatch. She joined the Brainerd Dispatch in 1996 after earning her bachelor's degree in mass communications at St. Cloud State University.
Renee Richardson can be reached at or by calling 218-855-5852 or follow her on Twitter @dispatchbizbuzz or Facebook.
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