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When the spring 2020 semester started last January, the Sharyland school district began implementing an ambitious new breakfast program for its high school students.
In January, the district’s child nutrition program rolled out a breakfast bar at Sharyland High School and Sharyland Pioneer High School that had an omelet, waffle and smoothie station for its students.
The menu items were to begin being implemented at other district campuses, and then the COVID-19 pandemic forced Sharyland and every other school district in the country to close its doors to the public.
“These options might come back and be offered as part of a limited menu when schools reopen,” district Child Nutrition Director Cynthia Sanchez said. “We’ve had to adapt quickly with the changing times, we did have some great ideas to roll out the school year that we’ve placed on hold until we come back to face to face instruction. For now while kids are virtual learning, this is the best way we can get meals to the community.”
Since school closed for spring break and students started attending virtual classes, the Child Nutrition Department has continued to do its job of feeding breakfast and lunch to students with a grab and go program where parents can drive up to a food distribution location in the district and pick up meals for their kids, Sanchez said.
“It’s important that we are able to offer this service for all the families with virtual learners at home,” Sanchez said. “They can come and pick up a meal that is already prepared so parents don’t have to cook. It’s a cost saving measure for the family and a well-balanced meal for students.”
The latest iteration of Sharyland’s free Grab and Go Curbside Meals program started last week on all 10 district campuses and will run through December 31. Under the program, parents pick up four meals on Mondays and Wednesdays consisting of two breakfast items and two lunch items – and three breakfast and three lunch meals on Fridays to last students through the weekend.
A total of 14 meals are distributed per student every week and parents only need to arrive with either a birth certificate for their child, school ID or a report card. Children do not need to be enrolled with the district to receive meals.
Families show up picking up food for as many as six children, Sanchez said.
According to district spokeswoman Rocio Landin, 6,000 meals were distributed over the summer. Since the program started in mid-March, nearly 1 million meals have been distributed to students as of August.
“We’re expecting to double that number by December,” Sanchez said. “It’s super exciting for us to offer meals to families at no cost. Our goal is to feed as many families and kids as we can. Our staff is dedicated, they love what they do and this dedicated team will pull through and feed as many families as they can.”
To ensure the health and safety of everyone involved, the child nutrition staff ensures the food is kept at its designated temperature and wears PPE along with the standard gloves and hairnets. Daily temperature checks and health screenings are also done to employees as they go into work.
“Parents have been very positive when they come to pick up the meals, this program has been very helpful for them,” Sanchez said. “They’ve given us ‘thank you’ cards saying this is something that benefits the household. This is a program free to all families so people of all different socioeconomic backgrounds are taking advantage of this whether they were eligible for free, reduced or paid lunches. We are distributing the maximum amount of food we can.”