This month, the East Baton Rouge Parish School System is adapting its plan to create a meal delivery plan to provide to virtual students. This plan will conveniently deliver meals directly to families, as reported in an Advocate article this month.
Since the return to in-person instruction took place earlier this fall semester, many school systems in Louisiana have been providing students with their daily in-person meals as well as additional “shelf-stable” and “fridge-safe” meals for the students’ at home or virtual learning days. With this plan, students in East Baton Rouge Parish schools attending in-person classes as a part of a hybrid schedule and students electing to stay home to learn virtually would have to come to school to retrieve the meals in-person.
Logically, this is an inconvenience for the full-virtual students, but all that changes in November 2020 with a new delivery service provided by the school system of East Baton Rouge Parish, and the service is expected to continue through the end of the school year in May 2021.
Nadine Mann, the Director of Child Nutrition for EBR schools expressed the dire need for a change in procedure as 30% of the district’s 12,000 students are learning strictly from their homes, making it a struggle for the school district to feed them. She told The Advocate, “I’m not really doing justice in providing meals to those students. The students in the virtual environment are entitled to meals as well.”
Starting in November, eligible families will be sent a link to an online signup form that will need to be completed by 5 pm each Thursday in order to receive a week’s worth of meals the following week.
Taylor Gass, a spokesperson for the school system reported that families will have to “re-register” each week due to the influx of students returning to in-person instruction and to ensure that drivers have the most up-to-date delivery addresses.
Since the start of the coronavirus outbreak in March closing school buildings across Louisiana, Mann’s staff has served grab-n-go meals on various school campuses, shifting over time to distributing a week’s worth of meals at once time. The return to in-person instruction has decreased the number of meal pick-ups, especially with all public schools in EBR resuming daily instruction on Oct 19th.
Initially, Mann considered utilizing school buses to deliver meals, but because of the number of perishable items, such as items with meat requiring refrigeration, the state health department rejected the proposed idea. After brainstorming with Emily Chatelain, the founder of the Three O’Clock Project, an afterschool meal program, she learned about TDP Group LLC, a company run by local restaurateur Jeff Landry. The group has a fleet of refrigerated trucks as well as a useful routing software to guide food deliveries effectively. TDP trucks will deliver meals once a week Monday through Friday between 8am and 5pm.
Like the curbside meals provided by the district, the meal delivery plan will provide home-delivered meals that are put together by the school system’s Child Nutrition department using “the same food,” remarked Mann. “It’s our product that we would normally cook in our kitchens.”
Meal boxes will include a combination of cereal, fresh bread products, frozen entrees, canned fruit and vegetables, and shelf-stable milk, totalling five lunches, five breakfasts, five suppers, and five snacks. The only catch is that meals cannot be left on a doorstep, as someone must be present to sign for the package. If no one is present when the truck arrives, Landry’s company plans to retry later in the week.
The meal delivery plan will be seen as a relief to many families, as most of society’s necessities have shifted to a delivery-model given recent national changes, and it’s a comfort to know that the youth of Baton Rouge will be receiving meals alongside their at-home learning.
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