Schools find new ways to deliver free lunches during pandemic
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Thirty million kids in the U.S. qualify for free or reduced meals at schools, and that was before the increased economic woes we’re experiencing now across the country.
Missed meals will have a long-lasting impact on kids and on school finances. As a result, schools have gotten creative about getting those meals to kids who need them.
There are about 400 school bus stops scattered around Savannah, Georgia. Some are in the city, others further out. It’s a network that winds through neighborhoods and connects thousands of families to schools.
It only made sense, then, to use the bus stops to deliver meals to students.
Ann Levett, superintendent of Savannah-Chatham County Public Schools, said that when the schools offered free meal to pick up, just over 2,000 meals were served a day. But, “once we started delivering by bus, it could be up to 10,000,” Levett said.
That’s still not even close to the 24,000 free meals the district served when all students attended in-person classes.
“Nothing replaces or nothing currently comes close to having access to students every day,” Levett said.
That’s a problem for the kids and the schools, said Lauren Bauer, a fellow at the Brookings Institution.
“While many schools and districts are expending a lot of resources to provide these meals, take-up rates are much lower than the eligible population, and, in fact, much lower than they would be if schools were open all the time,” Bauer said.
Around 30 million kids around the country rely on that food. In the spring, the United States Department of Agriculture made all families eligible for free meals. Some families also qualify for Pandemic EBT, extra money for food each month.
Meanwhile, schools are spending on personal protective equipment, gas for buses to deliver breakfast and lunch, and packaging for the food.
“They’ve now had to add a whole new budget line for meal prep,” said Diane Pratt-Heavner with the School Nutrition Association. “They’re having to package up all the meals, and the cost of those packaging materials has skyrocketed because every restaurant is doing more grab-and-go, more carry out.”
Some schools are running two food operations. In San Antonio’s Northeast School District, some students attend class in person and others do so remotely.
“Because we are feeding many thousands less meals every day, the revenue that we receive from the federal government for reimbursement of meals is much less,” said Sharon Glosson, who runs the school nutrition service.
The grab-and-go meal service has already cost the district $22,000 in just packaging materials since August.
Glosson said her district is making up the cost by using money from other parts of the school budgets.
COVID-19 Economy FAQs
Millions of Americans are unemployed, but businesses say they are having trouble hiring. Why?
This economic crisis is unusual compared to traditional recessions, according to Daniel Zhao, senior economist with Glassdoor. “Many workers are still sitting out of the labor force because of health concerns or child care needs, and that makes it tough to find workers regardless of what you’re doing with wages or benefits,” Zhao said. “An extra dollar an hour isn’t going to make a cashier with preexisting conditions feel that it’s safe to return to work.” This can be seen in the restaurant industry: Some workers have quit or are reluctant to apply because of COVID-19 concerns, low pay, meager benefits and the stress that comes with a fast-paced, demanding job. Restaurants have been willing to offer signing bonuses and temporary wage increases. One McDonald’s is even paying people $50 just to interview.
Could waiving patents increase the global supply of COVID-19 vaccines?
India and South Africa have introduced a proposal to temporarily suspend patents on COVID-19 vaccines. Backers of the plan say it would increase the supply of vaccines around the world by allowing more countries to produce them. Skeptics say it’s not that simple. There’s now enough supply in the U.S that any adult who wants a shot should be able to get one soon. That reality is years away for most other countries. More than 100 countries have backed the proposal to temporarily waive COVID-19 vaccine patents. The U.S isn’t one of them, but the White House has said it’s considering the idea.
Can businesses deny you entry if you don’t have a vaccine passport?
As more Americans get vaccinated against COVID-19 and the economy begins reopening, some businesses are requiring proof of vaccination to enter their premises. The concept of a vaccine passport has raised ethical questions about data privacy and potential discrimination against the unvaccinated. However, legal experts say businesses have the right to deny entrance to those who can’t show proof.
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