Franklin Tech expands meal delivery program to meet community needs

  • Franklin County Technical School employees Penny Bernier and Cheri Berry pack up more than 500 egg and cheese sandwiches for distribution throughout the county. Staff Photo/PAUL FRANZ

  • Franklin County Technical School Food Service Director Liz Bouchard waits to load a bus with meals. Staff Photo/PAUL FRANZ

  • Franklin County Technical School Food Service Director Liz Bouchard, left, helps load a bus with meals. Staff Photo/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 5/8/2020 1:19:06 PM
Modified: 5/8/2020 1:18:53 PM

TURNERS FALLS — Seeking to help meet community needs during the coronavirus crisis, Franklin County Technical School has become one of the biggest providers of free meals in the area.

In its first week of meal deliveries — the week of March 16, when the state government ordered school buildings to be closed — Franklin Tech delivered about 160 meals each day. Last week, the school’s cafeteria surpassed 1,000 meals per day — roughly double its output when school is in session.

“Every day we’ve had new people,” said Rob Doyle, one of the delivery bus drivers. “When we started off, it was like the word hadn’t gotten out.”

Each package, given to anyone age 21 and under, contains two meals — that day’s lunch, and a breakfast for the following day. On Fridays, the packages have four meals, to also account for one of the weekend days.

Food prep starts at 6 a.m, and delivery trucks go out at 10 a.m. for destinations in 17 towns in Franklin County. The cafeteria workers stay behind to start on the next day’s meals, which they finish the next morning.

It’s a full day of work, with fewer staff than normal producing more meals than normal, according to Franklin Tech’s Food Service Director Liz Bouchard. The cafeteria usually has about six people working, but now it has four, she said.

“I’m at full production all day,” she said.

Complicating things, supply chains for food services have been deeply disrupted by the coronavirus crisis. Major staples are in short supply, Bouchard said, forcing buyers to seek similar items instead, in turn forcing manufacturers to adjust their volumes to the new patterns of demand.

Plus, delivering packaged meals requires some products that aren’t involved in a usual school cafeteria set-up, like containers for individual portions, Bouchard said.

Bouchard said the extra expenses have been covered by a grant from the Eos Foundation, which supports anti-poverty efforts, and a grant from Project Bread, which supports anti-hunger efforts.

“There’s definitely a need,” Bouchard said. “And that could be getting greater and greater with the continued shutdown.”

The bus deliveries are covered by Franklin Tech’s existing contract with the bus company F.M. Kuzmeskus Inc., effectively making up for the now-unneeded student transportation services the company would have provided, according to Superintendent Rick Martin.

Martin and Business Manager Russ Kaubris have also described the school’s continuation of its contract with Kuzmeskus as a long-term strategy of ensuring that Kuzmeskus does not go out of business in the coronavirus crisis, which would force Franklin Tech into using a larger, more expensive bus company.

Reach Max Marcus at
mmarcus@recorder.com or 413-930-4231.


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