Johnson City Transit driver Cheryl Killman has been driving school buses for eight years, but it didn’t take her nearly that long to realize how important services like transportation and nutrition are to Johnson City Schools students.
An encounter with a passenger, barely old enough for first grade, cemented the purpose in her mind. The young student came shuffling onto her bus one early morning with his head down. The young boy, who rarely spoke, had a question for his bus driver that day.
“Mrs. Killman, is it okay to eat molded bread?”
“Every day since, I’ve made sure that I have a little extra breakfast on my bus,” Killman said. That memory is a constant reminder for Killman and other foodservice and transit employees of how important it is to provide meals to the children in Johnson City.
“This program is very important,” Killman said. “I know a lot of the parents we talk to are very appreciative and I am very happy to just be a small part of it.”
Killman is just one of the many dedicated Johnson City Transit and Johnson City Schools Foodservice workers who has worked since the closure on March 16 to ensure that any child, 18 and under, receives a free meal.
“I am so grateful for the selfless work that our foodservice staff and Johnson City Transit workers have provided to our community,” Johnson City Schools Director of Food Service Karen McGahey said. “Their sense of duty, care, concern, and love for our students has been evident by the way they undertook this responsibility. From preparing the meals to packing and physically moving the food, they jumped in and worked tirelessly to be sure that children were fed every day-rain or shine.”
The dedicated foodservice staff, along with nearly two dozen members from Johnson City Transit, have provided 162,982 emergency meals from March 24 until May 22. Since then another 28,224 meals have been provided to students and it is estimated that another 57,000 will be served by July 17 when the feeding program will cease. That means that before it is all over, Johnson City Food Service staff will have distributed just under 250,000 meals for children in our community.
Liberty Bell teacher Mona Gordon volunteered on one of the buses and she said the route around town was very impactful.
“It left joy in my heart to see the ladies on that bus interact with students, parents, and grandparents in our community,” Gordon said. “They greeted all with genuine smiles. They walked a couple of bags to the elderly grandparents so they would not have to climb down steps. They made sure to ask each student if they needed a work packet so they could direct them back to my car. They reminded students and parents that they would be back the following day with more food.”
Anyone 18 and under is eligible to receive free meals until the program ends on July 17. There are currently eight schools open for drive-thru service Monday through Friday from 10:45 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Those schools include Cherokee, Fairmont, Lake Ridge, North Side, Science Hill and Woodland. There are also 50 mobile sites that are visited daily to pass out breakfast and lunch.
For more information and to view the Summer feeding program, please visit jcschools.org.