WEST JEFFERSON — Building on an earlier order to close public schools in the wake of the COVID-19 health crisis, Gov. Roy Cooper signed an executive order March 23 to close K-12 public schools in the state of North Carolina for in-person instruction until May 15.

For many students, the closures leave a meal gap in their day. Some schools are making that gap up. According to Cooper, as of March 22, more than 1,100 schools have served more than 1.2 million meals since schools closed two weeks ago.

Ashe County Schools has been working with the Child Nutrition program since March 17 to provide “Grab-n-Go” breakfast and lunch meals at all three elementary schools from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Superintendent Phyllis Yates has been communicating updates with parents and students via Connect 5 calls each evening. In each call for the past week, Yates has provided the total number of breakfast and lunch meals that were distributed between all three elementary school sites.

On March 22, school buses began meal delivery routes for these meals to be transported to students throughout the county.

According to numbers provided by Yates of March 23, there was a total of more than 7,000 meals for the five days Child Nutrition has completed these services.

McDonald’s of West Jefferson recently collaborated with Ashe County Schools and has been providing a free student meal in the evenings from 4-7 p.m. for K-6 students to complement the Child Nutrition program.

The offer, which is only available at the McDonald’s located in West Jefferson, began on March 20 and will continue through April.

According to owners Don and MaryAnne Moore, they are now offering more choices of menu items available to students.

The Moores said that all of Ashe County has supported them through the years and now it is time for them to give back.

The student meal includes a choice of either 4-piece chicken nuggets, a hamburger or cheeseburger and a choice of a small order of fries, apple slices or a strawberry Go-Gurt. Drink choices include 1 percent low-fat white milk, fat-free chocolate milk, soda, apple juice or water.

The meal is free to the student when accompanied by a parent or guardian.

According to the Moores, the number of McDonald’s free student meals served has been steadily increasing and is approaching 200 meals a day. They anticipate those increases to continue and their restaurant is prepared to serve every K-6 student in Ashe County, including home-schooled children, an evening meal every day through April 30, 2020.

“Ashe County welcomed us with open arms when we arrived 25 years ago. Through the years we have watched these children and their parents grow up. We’ve sponsored their school field trips, their little league teams, their scout troops and have given many of them their first job,” the Moores said, “Now, however, they need support in a different way — they need to know they can get a meal everyday, right now, while families are adjusting to these changing times. We are proud to offer this support to Ashe County families.“

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