The Osceola school district is continuing meal delivery service as the shutdown resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic stretches into April.
The meal service is now feeding nearly 700 students two meals a day, over 40 percent of the district’s roughly 1700 total students. The meals are delivered by a fleet of ten buses and their drivers, along with a team of school employees in each bus to help organize the effort. Meals are also available to pick up for around 30 families who are within walking distance of the district. Steve Leslie, the transportation coordinator for the Osceola School District, said the service is running smoothly.
“We think it’s going very well,” he said. “People are still signing up.”
Two school employees, a ‘prepper’ and a ‘hopper,’ help out the drivers on their routes. The prepper organizes the meals for each stop in the bus while the hopper runs them to the curb. Leslie said the teams have been doing a great job.
“The drivers have a very positive attitude and people are really appreciative of what the drivers and people on the bus are doing for them,” he said. “And parents are doing a great job of following social distancing.”
The food itself is prepared by the kitchen staff early in the morning. School nutrition director Susan Mayer said they always begin their day by sanatizing their workspace.
“I have two head cooks that get in at 6 a.m. and they start with a wipe down of everything just to make sure we’re starting off disinfected,” she said. “And then we set up the assembly line.”
Meals vary from day to day just as they would if the students were eating in school. Breakfast is typically ‘grab and go’ style with lunch being more of a complete meal. The district still has to adhere to national nutrition guidelines so the nutritional value of the meals is just as high as it would be normally.
Supply shortages haven’t been an issue for Mayer so far, but she said that is a concern as the shutdown continues.
“We’re trying to utilize what we already had on hand but we’re running out of pre-packaged items,” she said. “So we’re looking at having to package up our own vegetables or look at microwave safe options.”
If food shortages do begin to mount the district will simply have to continue doing the best they can.
“We’re all in the same boat,” she said. “Every school district is trying to do the same thing.”
Besides providing meals, the delivery service give students a chance to see some of their teachers and other school staff everyday, which can be just as important as students continue to miss out on face-to-face interaction at school.
“That’s a big deal for them, there’s lot of excitement,” Steve Leslie said. “There’s a special ed student who dresses up in different garb every week and stands out and waves at people as they go by. So everybody’s having a lot of fun with it.”
The most credit according to both Leslie and Mayer belongs to the kitchen staff who prepare the meals each morning.
“They’ve just been so willing to think outside the box and do what it takes to get this done,” she said. “They’re working really, really hard right now and they’re doing awesome.”