School Nutrition expands meal program

first_img School Nutrition expands meal program Pinterest TAGS  Previous articleIsy’s Fine Jewelry wins downtown decorating contestNext articleCovid-19 Vaccine for Christmas Digital AIM Web Support Twitter Pinterest Twitter By Digital AIM Web Support – December 24, 2020 center_img Facebook Facebook EducationECISDLocal News WhatsApp WhatsApp To reach an estimated 13,000 remote learners, the Ector County ISD School Nutrition Department plans to expand its meal delivery service Jan. 4.  Brandon Reyes, the department director, said they have been using volunteers to deliver a week’s worth of meals for remote and hybrid learners. “We’re starting to see that we have an increase in families requesting and that kind of exceeded our volunteer capability,” Reyes said. At its Dec. 15 meeting, the ECISD Board of Trustees approved a contract with Texas To Go, LLC for an estimated cost of $125,000 to deliver meals. The funder listed in supplemental agenda material is the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Currently, Reyes said the school nutrition department is serving about 113 families, which is roughly 277 children and just under 4,000 meals per week. He added that were looking to onboard 39 additional families adding about 90 children. “So that will increase our meals to about 5,100 meals. … The USDA has those flexibilities that they extended for this school year. With that, we’re able to do this and so we just think it will be important because there are a ton of kids out there that we just haven’t reached,” Reyes said. “We want to do everything we can to at least offer them the opportunity to take the meals.” Each child between the ages of 1 and 18 will get seven breakfast and seven lunch meals each delivery. “It’s an amazing thing, so our participation is limited to those who are interested. The big idea is that we get the word out to the families so that they’re aware of our program and then we onboard them so there’s a little bit of a process to that. It’s actually pretty easy, but once we do that then they’re set up they’ll (receive) the contactless delivery” on a certain day of the week, Reyes said. He added that it’s “super beneficial.” “We’re a universal free feeding district. These meals aren’t (just) for those who are considered economically disadvantaged. This is available to all … We do see that there is some hesitation with some families not wanting to participate because they feel maybe they don’t want to take meals from those who they consider really need it, maybe more … than them. That’s never the case with us because … this is our bread and butter. We have a ton of inventory. We … have enough food on hand to be able to serve them as the volume increases.” Reyes said volunteers will still be used to deliver meals. “Our volunteers have been wonderful in that they’ve chosen to volunteer because they want to help and they’ll absolutely be able to help as often as they would like,” Reyes said. “We’re not going to restrict that at all. We’re basically going to expand our partnership so that as we increase in families, we’ll better be able to serve them on a daily basis. They’ve been pivotal to our program this semester so we absolutely welcome them to continue doing the great work that they do.” Renee Earls, president/CEO of the Odessa Chamber of Commerce, said in a text message that they have eight to nine employees who volunteer weekly. “Many of our events have been cancelled due to COVID, so we’ve had some time to dedicate to this service. I’m glad ECISD is expanding the program to reach more students,” Earls stated. School Nutrition offers daily curbside sites and Friday evening curbside, but Reyes said they are still not reaching enough families. “So we’re trying to do more. It just, unfortunately, takes a little bit of additional time to get it set up. Ideally, we would have liked to set this up much, much sooner. But so many factors came into play. We had to make sure that USDA was going to keep the flexibilities for the rest of the school year. That’s the biggest driver because if they would have stopped the flexibilities half way through the school year, then we would have started something that we would have had to have stopped. It makes it much more difficult, so we just needed to make sure there was some certainty so that we could make the moves we needed to,” Reyes said. He said the department had planned to provide meals over Christmas break as it did for Thanksgiving. A full week’s worth of meals were provided Dec. 17 and will be again Dec. 27, the department’s Twitter account says for children between 1 and 18. “Once again, it’s a testament to our team and their dedication to the needs of the community. When we say needs of the community; it’s those of all ranges. Those making zero dollars a year to $100,000 a year. It does not matter. We’re here to help feed whoever would like to be fed between the ages of 1 and 18, so we’re going to do our part. We hope people take advantage of it. It’s a wonderful thing,” Reyes said. The food families get is the same as they would get at school and includes heating instructions.last_img read more