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Homemade signs and cheerful workers greeted families as they drove up to Irving School and Bozeman High on Monday morning to pick up free grab-and-go lunches for kids while Montana public schools remain closed to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

“Happy Monday,” elementary school cook Kirsten Emborg said when one family drove up to Irving School.

“How many kids?” asked Michelle Herzog, food service production manager. She picked up several plastic bags, placed them in the rear of the minivan, and walked to a table to change her gloves and use hand sanitizer before the next family’s arrival.

“Have a great day!” said Emborg, sending them on their way.

Most lunches offered peanut butter and jelly sandwiches – a kid favorite, said Brittany Selvig, food service director for the Bozeman School District.

A total of 185 sack lunches were handed out Monday, Selvig said.

“It went very well,” Selvig said. “I had a lot of anxieties because, like everything, no one has done it before.”

Selvig said she had been nervous about keeping both food service workers and families safe, but also wanted to make it a happy, healthy, good experience. It turned out to be easy to keep everyone 6 feet apart, she said, both at the two school takeout sites and in the school district’s kitchens.

“It was fun today,” Selvig said. “Good to see the kids again.”

Each lunch Monday had an apple, vegetable and milk. There was also food for the next day’s breakfast — cereal, milk, string cheese and fruit. There were alternative lunches for kids with peanut allergies.

Menus will change each day — Tuesday will offer kids a choice of peanut butter sandwiches or turkey or ham wraps.

Each meal has a grain, protein, milk, fruit and vegetable, Selvig said.

To slow the spread of the virus, the governor has ordered all Montana public schools to be closed for two weeks, from March 16 to 27, while urging schools to continue to provide free meals for students who qualify.

Last week was spring break for Bozeman schools, so Monday was the first day that some 7,000 Bozeman students had to stay home unexpectedly.

No one knows yet if school closures will continue next week, Selvig said. “We will continue doing this as long as school is out.”

The number of students signed up for free and reduced price school lunches based on family income ranged from 5% at Bozeman High to 39% at Irving School last school year, according to the district’s 2019 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report.

Sack lunches were also provided to KidsLINK, which normally runs after-school programs. This week, Selvig said, it’s offering a day care program for children of first responders and health care professionals.

The free sack lunches and breakfasts are being offered to all families this week, Monday through Friday, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., at Bozeman High School’s oval drive off Main Street and Irving Elementary School’s south entrance off Alderson Street.

Parents can drive or walk up to get meals for each child who accompanies them, from ages 1 to 18. No paperwork is required and kids don’t have to be Bozeman students or signed up for the free and reduced-price school lunch program. But kids do have to be present. Families can go to either school, whichever is convenient.

The meal program is operating on the same everyone-welcome format as the summer lunch program operated by the Human Resource Development Council.

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Gail Schontzler can be reached at gails@dailychronicle.com or 582-2633.