Free school meals program moves past obstacles, resumes for once a week pickup

A scene from St. Charles Parish Public Schools' meal distribution last month

After navigating the turbulent, uncertain waters wrought by the COVID 19 pandemic, the St. Charles Parish public school district will be able to continue supplying free meals for its students following a pair of interruptions.

Originally structured as a daily pickup service to ensure food security for students during the ongoing statewide closure of schools, the district’s Grab and Go meals program will now be held each Tuesday from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the Lafon Performing Arts Center in Luling. Families will be able to pick up breakfast and lunch meal kits to last for a full week via curbside drive-up.

The program was suspended twice. The first time came after a school district employee (reportedly not directly involved with the meal distribution) reported he or she was in hospital quarantine. The district halted services after two days to regroup and add more measures of caution.

Plans were to resume a week later (March 30) but after Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards issued a stay at home order that discouraged non-essential gatherings of more than 10 people, organizers were forced to improvise again, and consolidated a week of distribution into one day.

That turned out to be the prototype for the program moving forward after the school district confirmed with state officials that its meal distribution would be identified as fitting a “critical” need.

“The school system wanted to ensure it could provide this service while also keeping our employees, those involved with the distribution and our community safe,” said Stevie Crovetto, St. Charles Parish schools’ Director of Public Information. “We received the proper personal protective gear and modified to a one day a week distribution to limit exposure. Families can pick up meals for the entire week on this one day.”

Meals include a shelf-stable breakfast and refrigerated or frozen lunch. An ID is not required to pick-up meals and students do not need to be present.

Dr. Ken Oertling, St. Charles Parish Public Schools Superintendent, said the district is also working with community-based organizations to provide meals to those families that are unable to pick up meals from the Lafon Arts Center.

The school district is providing the meals through a contracted third party vendor.

The worker who was quarantined tested positive for COVID-19, the district said through a release last week. The employee works at both R.K. Smith and New Sarpy Elementary Schools. The district noted the worker had not been on either campus since March 9.

The schools’ closure has been extended through April 30, as per Edwards’ recent extension of stay-at-home measures.


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