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Schools increase free summer meal prep to meet unexpected demand
Parent surveys introduced to aid planning
Summer_lunches
Evonne Kirkland, Kesha Collins, background left, and other Bulloch County Schools staff distribute Summer Nutrition Program free take-home meal boxes on Monday, June 7. at Julia P. Bryant Elementary School. (Statesboro Herald photo/Scott Bryant)

Bulloch County Schools food service employees are preparing more Summer Nutrition Program free take-home meal boxes for Monday morning’s weekly distribution after an unexpectedly large response this week.

Each week, any child from birth to 18 years old is eligible to receive one box that includes a variety of perishable and non-perishable food items for five breakfasts and five lunches. From now on, the drive-through time to pick up meal boxes will be 9 a.m. until 9:30 every Monday, June 7 through July 12, at five schools within the county.

This program is funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, through which taxpayers subsidize and support school nutrition programs nationwide. Beginning now for Monday’s distribution, the Bulloch County Schools will survey parents each week in an effort to improve planning for the meal program, said Hayley Greene, the schools system’s public relations director.

“Bulloch County Schools will provide access to an online survey where each week families can let the district know of their intent to pick up meals,” she wrote in an email. “The survey link will be sent to families digitally each week, and it will be available on each school's and the district's social media and websites.”

The survey will be similar to the one that was used during the 2020-2021 school year to pre-order meals for children enrolled in virtual instruction, Greene said.

But there are no pre-registration or pre-ordering requirements for Summer Nutrition Program. The meal boxes are available to children up to age 18 regardless of school enrollment status. Children do not have to be Bulloch County Schools students to receive the meals.

Families may drive through and pick up meal boxes 9 a.m.-9:30 a.m. Mondays from these locations: Brooklet Elementary School, Sallie Zetterower Elementary, Julia P. Bryant Elementary, Portal Middle High School and Mattie Lively Elementary. The remaining pick-up days will be June 7, 14, 21 and 28, and then July 5 and 12.

 

First-week surprise

This year’s first Summer Nutrition Program distribution was held Tuesday, June 1, because Monday was the Memorial Day holiday, and so the boxes contained breakfasts and lunches for four days, not five, this one time.

Demand greatly exceeded the original number of food boxes prepared, Greene reported.

“We originally prepared (about  2,500) meals to serve our Summer Nutrition Program and our Summer Learning Opportunities families, but demand for the Summer Nutrition Program was greater than we'd anticipated,” Greene wrote in an email. “This resulted in long wait times as we prepared an additional (more than 2,000) meals. We also understand that some families were unable to pick up meals.”

She posted an apology from the Bulloch County Schools to those families on the school system’s website.

“We are pleased to be able to offer this value-added service to our community as we know food insecurity and childhood hunger are barriers to quality of life,” Greene added. “In this spirit we are committed to improving our services.”

Eventually, the Bulloch County Schools nutrition service distributed total of 4,772 meals Tuesday, including 3,960 in the pick-up boxes. The actual number of children served that way was 495, Greene said, but because each box contained four lunches and four breakfasts, this was multiplied by eight for the total number of meals.

Additionally, 406 children enrolled in “Summer Learning Opportunities” were served breakfast and lunch, for a total of 812 meals provided to those students on Tuesday alone.

“Summer Learning Opportunities” are the Early Summer School and Summer School programs being provided on seven campuses as the schools attempt to help students catch up the past year’s pandemic disruptions and partial shift to virtual learning.

Because the summer meal program is funded by the USDA on a reimbursement basis, the school system can increase the number of meals served to meet the demand and still recover the full cost, Greene said.

For additional information about the Summer Feeding Program, contact the school nutrition director Megan Blanchard at (912) 212- 8620 or mblanchard@bullochschools.org.

 

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