The past 12 weeks have involved huge changes for everyone: school, work, safety, staying home, cancelled trips, social distancing, finding new ways to stay close without being in close proximity to one another.
Since I work in education, we went through dramatic changes in a short period of time. I went from teaching Adapted P.E. working with students every day, to a ‘go home for two weeks order’, that changed to a ” help is needed delivering meals to our community children,” over the weekend!
Over that first weekend, three entities collaborated to have meals prepared and delivered to the youth in our community. “Feeding our children while school would be closed” became a priority! Monday morning three meals went out in a meal pack for each student. Tuesday morning – I showed up to help.
We didn’t know whether we were being paid or if it was voluntary those first two weeks. I personally didn’t care. On that Monday morning in March, the world was just beginning it’s journey into a new frontier, a great unknown and our school district, transportation department and kitchen staff were going to ensure that our community’s children were fed and I determined that I would do my part to help!
The process did take a few weeks to work the kinks out. Kitchen staff showed up at 5:00am to begin preparing the days hot meal, making sandwiches and putting the meal packs together. The previous day’s meal counts would be assigned to each bus, counted and packed. We arrived at 8:30am to set up our side of delivery, gather changes and information to pass onto our bus riders who began to arrive at 10:15am. We helped pack the meals up those first five weeks. There was a lot of bending and lifting – I was definitely tired at the end of the day. We held a morning debrief for our bus riders that included safety: wearing face masks at all times, importance of frequent hand sanitizing, social distancing – even on the bus, any educational materials going out, the days menu and any concerns that needed to be addressed.
It was a coordinated effort with a great amount of communication and organization required. Loading busses began at 10:30am for the early busses and 11:00am for the regular routes. We set up for curbside pick up: drive through and walk up, having meals to go from 12:00pm – 1:30pm. Our site packed and delivered 800 – 900 meal packs a day, five days a week. Our school district, including the four area meal sites, delivered about 3000 meal packs daily.
Once we knew this process was continuing through the end of the school year, weekly educational materials were also delivered. As more families picked up chrome books and got connected for on line distance learning, the number of learning packets reduced.
Our staff enjoyed seeing the students as meals were delivered. Families at first would say how many meals that they needed. The meals would be bagged and then set in a plastic tub. Once the staff member moved back, the student or parent would pick up their families meals. There might be several families at a stop. In the beginning, our bus riders communicated regarding social distancing and reviewed the changing safety protocols. In a short time, the staff knew the families at each stop, how many meals would be needed, and which school was attended for educational packets.
It has been a long twelve week journey. The meal program has been very rewarding team to be a part of. Together, our district delivered over half a million meals to our county. There is still much unknown ahead of us, but we know that communities can work together to make a difference! I was glad to be a part of the solution after the schools closed.
The meals on the bus go round and round, all through the town.