School nutrition programs are champions when it comes to flexibility. When Georgia implemented the COVID-19 Shelter in Place Order, the Coffee County School Nutrition Program had to take its adjustment skills to a new level. What started out as a mission to maintain breakfast and lunch service for their average 4,700 customers per day, has evolved into service for almost 11,000 children per day, throughout the county.
Every school nutrition program has to adjust to changes in federal and state guidelines, product shortages and substitutions, staffing challenges, etcetera. The current pandemic has brought in a multitude of unforeseen challenges. Systems are purchasing many of the same products, often causing delays or substitutions, which affects the menus or the packaging of meals. The USDA guidelines are still in place, but waivers are available for systems to apply for, which helps ease the burden of providing meal components that are sometimes impossible to access. Employees are now conscious of following social distance rules, wearing masks, and having daily temperature checks. Through all of this, however, the mission never changes…children need meals.
Modeling their Seamless Summer Option, or summer feeding program, meals are available for children 18 and younger. The school transportation department has become a critical part of the emergency feeding plan. With the help of the transportation and maintenance departments, everything is packed onto buses and transported by routes. Bus monitors and volunteers throughout the community deliver meals to waiting children who are greeted with the familiar face of their bus driver, and often, one of their teachers. This program has nourished the children it serves and has kept a visible and somewhat tangible connection to their schools. In addition to delivering meals, teacher volunteers are on each bus and at each school on designated days to deliver learning packets to parents who request them. Employees from all departments have come together to make this happen.
The program will continue service through May 20, with meal delivery and pickup options on Mondays and Wednesdays. The Seamless Summer Option will begin on May 27 and will run until July 10, with the exception of June 29-July 3. Site information and meal delivery options will be announced when those plans are finalized. If you belong to a church, business or organization interested in partnering with the Coffee County School Nutrition Program as a meal pickup site, please call (912) 389-6517 for more information.