How districts make school meal distribution familiar and safe
The daily school bus delivery of school lunch and breakfast has become the highlight of the day for students stuck at home while the coronavirus pandemic has closed schools in Iberville Parish Schools in Louisiana.
The district, in which all children qualify for free lunch, runs 40 buses that deliver a late lunch and the next day’s breakfast to any child who is outside their home, regardless of whether they are an Iberville student.
The meals consist of a cold pack with juice, milk, fruit and vegetables, and a bag with the additional items.
Along with the drivers, the meal-distribution buses are staffed by teachers, clerical staff, paraeducators, principals, supervisor sand other staff who hand out meals in some very rural areas where food insecurity is high, says Shannon Chiasson, Iberville’s school food services director.
“It is a beautiful thing to see when students come out and recognize their teacher or a principal,” Chiasson says. “As a district that went through Hurricane Katrina, we know how important it is for kids to have something that’s familiar to them.”
The educators are greeting and chatting with the students while maintaining a safe physical distance, Superintendent Arthur M. Joffrion Jr. says.
The district delivered 38,000 meals from Wednesday to Friday last week.
Food distribution will continue throughout the week because it’s been declared an essential service under the governor of Louisiana stay-at-home order, which went into effect at 5 p.m. on Monday, Joffrion says.
“The success of this effort would not be possible without the hard work and dedication of employees at all levels in our system,” Joffrion says. “As long as people are safe and healthy, we want to continue through the entire time the system is closed, but a lot of that will hinge on what’s dictated to us.”
Safe school lunch and breakfast
Administrators in Alhambra Elementary School District in Phoenix have placed mobile kitchens on buses to distribute food in about a dozen locations that students can reach without crossing major streets or walking more than a mile.
Each bus is staffed by a driver, three food service staffers and a maintenance worker, says Mandi Bilyou, the assistant superintendent of educational services.
“We wouldn’t be able to do this without the amazing staff we have,” Bilyou says. “The entire district is on work-from-home and these staffers are in the workplace—the child nutrition, maintenance and transportation staff have been phenomenal in stepping up to support students, and they’ve been really positive and happy to do it.”
The district, which has a 94% free- and reduced-lunch rate, has served more than 25,000 meals to over 8,000 students. It will give meals to any child under 18.
There are a lot of single-parent households and in the community, and many parents have been impacted by the closure of restaurants, hotels and other sectors of the service industry.
The mobile food service has been promoted extensively on social media, by flyers on school buildings and via other forms of parent communication.
“It all depends on the health of staff and the availability of food,” Bilyou says. “So far, we’ve had no concerns with suppliers and food ability.”
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