Meal service programs successful throughout pandemic

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Southwest delivers more than 11,000 meals in April

Throughout the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic, local school districts have taken a stand to fight food insecurities for their students.

In Barry County, students can get a meal every day, even though school is not in session.

The Cassville school district has taken a preemptive approach to making sure the pandemic does not affect its ability to prepare, package and hand out meals.

By using two teams of eight, labeled the black team and gold team, the district rotates the team in separately to avoid cross contamination with the virus.

If a member of one of the teams contracts the virus, the other team will take over.

School officials said since the teams are isolated from each other, the risk of the program stopping because of COVID-19 is slim.

Each day, the Cassville school district is handing out 650-675 meals per day, with two meals per student.

Each student receives a lunch for the day and a breakfast for the following day. This accounts for up to 6,750 meals per week.

The district is also prepared to continue this meal service throughout June 30.

According to Mindi Gates, Purdy superintendent, based on end-of-week counts on April 18, the average number of students served per day is approximately 256.

“The total number of meals served [at that time was] 10,344,” she said. “We will provide this service through the end of our school year, which is through May 15.

“We are currently looking at summer school options and meal options for the summer, but no decisions have been made at this time.”

Meals are served each day from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. through the pick-up line.

“Our food service staff prepare the meals and our AmeriCorp Reading Coaches help distribute the meals in the line each day,“ Gates said. “Administrators also help with distribution and deliveries.”

The Wheaton school district is maintaining a lunch and breakfast pick-up line.

“We have varying numbers each day, but our average is about 125, with our highest number of served meals being 160,” said Lance Massey, Wheaton superintendent. “At this point, we will continue serving through our scheduled last day of school on May 14. We are working on plans for options beyond that time.”

Through the district’s partnership with OPAA!, meals are being prepared with extra precautions being taken for cafeteria staff safety and for volunteers assisting with passing out the meals.

Southwest Super-intendent Tosha Tilford said Southwest is going door to door every day of the week for deliveries.

“Our last day for meal delivery will be May 13, which corresponds with the last day of school,” she said. “We will start again with meals on June 1-26 on campus only during summer school.  At this point, we are not planning any deliveries after May 13.”

Tilford said all of the non-certified staff members are working hard to make sure that meal deliveries are happening. 

Between April 1 and April 28, more than 11,000 meals have been delivered.

The highest number of meals delivered in one day was 671 meals on April 9.

The Exeter school district is also providing meals to students during the pandemic, and Life360 is also working at the school to provide a week’s worth of food to children 18 and younger every Friday.

“We are preparing and providing about 100 meals each day,” said, Ernest Raney, Exeter superintendent. “We will continue to do so until May 8, which is the end of the calendar school year.”

At this time, the Exeter school district has not made a decision on summer school.

“If we do summer school, we will have a summer food service program served in the cafeteria,” he said. “That will be available to all students up to 18 years old, not just the summer school students.”

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