Army & Air Force Exchange Service Serves Up More Than 85,000 Grab-and-Go School Meals During Pandemic

Photo By Staff Sgt. Taresha Hill | Exchange School Meal Program Food Server Emily Turner (left) and SMP Supervisor Ana Marie Kral, prepare a grab-and-go meal June 4, 2020 at Ramstein Intermediate School. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Taresha Hill)  



Story by Chris Ward 

Army & Air Force Exchange Service HQ 

DALLAS – With schools overseas transitioning into the summer break, the Army & Air Force Exchange Service has wrapped up its highly successful grab-and-go school meal program. Implemented as schools in Europe and the Pacific went virtual during the COVID-19 pandemic, the program served 85,570 breakfasts and lunches in four months.

As the pandemic shuttered schools and children began virtual learning, the Exchange quickly pivoted to ensure students could still enjoy healthy and nutritious meals.

“We are thrilled that so many families participated in this program and had peace of mind during a very trying time,” said Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Luis Reyes, the Exchange senior listed advisor. “While learning went on in virtual classrooms, students were still enjoying healthy meals. The Exchange’s core value of family serving family truly resonated.”

The program began in Korea in early March with schools in Europe, Okinawa and Japan coming on board March 23. At designated times each day, families could stop by one of the centralized locations for the grab-and-go meals. Exchange associates and school personnel monitored and enforced physical distancing and ensured a safe, sanitized and secure experience when students and families arrived.

“We are appreciative for all that the Exchange Pacific team has done for service members and their families,” said Brig. Gen William J. Bowers, Commanding General, Marine Corps Installations Pacific. “Flexible, agile, supportive and proactive—the Exchange team has shown all these qualities and more throughout the school year, and every day, while supporting all their customers during this pandemic.”

The Exchange school meal program will be ready to support military children when schools resume in August, whether it is grab-and-go meals or if the students return to the classroom.

“It’s been amazing and very convenient,” said Airman 1st Class Bret Owen, a crew chief with the 86th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron at Ramstein Air Base in Germany. “The staff is always courteous and my two boys love having the meals. It’s a way to stay connected with school.”

Since 1955, the Exchange has been the school feeding authority for the Army and Air Force. The school meal program is operated for military students overseas, serving more than 2.6 million meals a year.

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