414 Heroes: How Shorewood Schools Are Feeding Kids and Families

“When I was a kid, I always had waffles on Wednesdays for breakfast. So I continue that tradition.”

WITH IN-PERSON CLASSES shut down throughout the state, many school districts have continued feeding kids and their families – from a safe social distance. Beth Klebbe, 39, has become a familiar face to Shorewood families, hustling food bags to them with energy and a smile, and packing the bags with food the kids will actually eat – mini pronto pups, pizza dippers, tater tots, mac ‘n cheese.


WHO: BETH KLEBBE, 39, FOOD SERVICE DIRECTOR, SHOREWOOD SCHOOL DISTRICT


In the beginning, we had no idea what to expect. This is my first year as food service director for the Shorewood School District. And, obviously, it’s the first pandemic for us all. Since schools were closed due to COVID 19 starting in mid-March, we announced that there would be food bags available for pickup at the high school each morning. Free of charge, for anyone, whether they live in the district or not.

That first week, as word of mouth started getting out more and more, that’s when it picked up. Now, we hand out in the range of 250 to 300 bags each morning. There’s often a line of cars. Some people come on bikes. Some on foot. Most have their kids with them, but it’s not required.

For our regulars, we’ve got a system. When it’s their turn, they hold their hand out the window with the number of fingers signaling how many bags they want. I then go back inside the building and return with the bags they requested. I keep a quick pace and definitely get a good workout. Some days, I look at my watch and see I’ve put on 30,000 steps. That’s about 15 miles! My days start at 5:30 a.m. so I can get a jump on packing and prepping the food. I usually leave at about 4 p.m.

Maybe the hardest part is that all my staff isn’t working right now when I can’t employ all of them. I typically have 10 people working for me. 

We follow USDA guidelines for nutritional standards in what we put in the bag. Apples are a staple. Peas and carrots, too. I also try to make it fun so it’s not the same thing all the time. You know, just to be creative with the things I put in the bags. When I was a kid, I always had waffles on Wednesdays for breakfast. So I continue that tradition. 

I’m definitely happy with the progress that has been made and how much families are utilizing our services. That’s been the best part of it all, you know, helping families and feeding the kids. New families come every day. So, it’s really exciting.

– As told to Dan Simmons

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Daniel Simmons grew up in St. Paul, Minn., the “good twin” city. He started his writing career covering the midsection for the Mayo Clinic. Since then he’s written about human smuggling by sea in San Diego, the coyote invasion of Chicago and the political circus in Madison. He also got to write about his childhood idol, Larry Bird, for Runners World. He’s the managing editor.