Army & Air Force Exchange Service serves up nearly 40,000 Grab-and-Go meals at Pacific schools during pandemic

Chiaki Lamptey (left) and Ayako Tripp (right) prepares “Grab-N-Go” lunches at Kadena Elementary School for students as they adjust to the changes caused by COVID-19 pandemic to “Virtual Classrooms”. United States Forces Japan and Department of Defense Education Agency asked the Exchange to amend their School Meal Program to support the students and parents during the pandemic. During the span of “Grab-N-Go”, the SMP provided more than 900,000 breakfast and lunch meals to students in the Pacific Region.
Chiaki Lamptey (left) and Ayako Tripp (right) prepares “Grab-N-Go” lunches at Kadena Elementary School for students as they adjust to the changes caused by COVID-19 pandemic to “Virtual Classrooms”. United States Forces Japan and Department of Defense Education Agency asked the Exchange to amend their School Meal Program to support the students and parents during the pandemic. During the span of “Grab-N-Go”, the SMP provided more than 900,000 breakfast and lunch meals to students in the Pacific Region.

Army & Air Force Exchange Service serves up nearly 40,000 Grab-and-Go meals at Pacific schools during pandemic

by SSG Mark A. Kauffman
Army & Air Force Exchange Service Public Affairs

OKINAWA – With schools in the Pacific region 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 the Pacific went virtual during the COVID-19 pandemic, the program served 39,281 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 Col. Scott P. Maskery, the Exchange’s Pacific Region commander. “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 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.

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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