Next week school buses will roll once again, but for a
special reason — they will be delivering fresh produce to students at 68 select
elementary campuses as a part of a new produce delivery program.
Fresh Bus school buses will provide weekly deliveries of
fresh fruits and vegetables to several locations in each school community,
making fresh produce directly available to more than 36,000 students.
As the school year comes to a close, the Houston Independent
School District is transitioning from its community food distribution efforts
to a curbside summer meals program for students.
Beginning June 1, families will be able to pick up boxed
student meals twice a week on Mondays and Thursdays at one of 68 designated schools across
the district. Boxes may be picked up by students, parents, or other adult
Each box will contain a day’s worth of meals, including breakfast, lunch, dinner, and a snack. Families will receive several days’ worth of food — three boxes on Mondays and four on Thursdays — per child at each pickup.
When Interim Superintendent Grenita Lathan arrived at the
HISD Hexser T. Holliday Food Service Center, she was eager to tour facility
operations, but precautions had to be taken first.
Upon entering the facility, her temperature was taken just
footsteps inside the door — a safety precaution and clear sign of the times as
the world endures the COVID-19 pandemic.
“In the weeks since our district closed, we’ve worked hard
to meet the needs of our community,” Lathan said. “This visit is a great
opportunity to get an up-close look at how the entire food distribution process
Feeding more than 10,000 families five days a week during a
pandemic is no easy task. It’s an effort that requires the collaboration of
multiple departments across the district to bring it all together.
In just over a month, HISD — working together with the
Houston Food Bank — has distributed 2 million pounds of food to more than
60,000 families. That range spans from March 14 through April 18.
“I appreciate the spotlight we’ve received, but it’s not
just us,” HISD Nutrition Services Officer Betti Wiggins said, referencing the
child nutrition department she leads. “We couldn’t have accomplished this
without the help of Community Partnerships and HISD Police.”
The Houston Independent School District will continue
operating food distribution sites, with another 25 sites operating throughout
the district during the week of April 27.
The food distribution efforts will continue utilizing Nutrition Services staff to pack food bags at the Hexser T. Holliday Food Services Support Facility and deliver the food to the distribution sites. Each site can distribute up to 500 bags — or 15,000 pounds of food — per day.
HISD, Houston Food Bank plan second mass food distribution at NRG on Saturday
As families arrive at sites, nutrition staff will minimize
contact by filling out the required Emergency Food Assistance Program forms for
families and placing food in their trunks. Participants who walk to the sites
also must adhere to social distancing requirements.
The Houston Independent School District is partnering with the Houston Food Bank to organize a second mass food distribution site on Saturday, April 25 from 4 to 7 p.m. at NRG Stadium.
Distribution will be held in the NRG yellow
lot, and attendees must enter via the yellow lot main entrance off South Main
Street. The site is expected to distribute 5,000 food packages — each weighing
80 to 100 pounds — in about three hours. That’s the equivalent of roughly half
a million pounds of food.
HISD’s first mass community distribution site
was held last Saturday and distributed more than 280,000 pounds of food to 4,256
cars and 450 families on foot.
HISD Nutrition Services Officer Betti Wiggins will share her
experiences regarding emergency community feeding during a webinar sponsored by
food service publications.
Wiggins will participate in a panel discussion to explore
how school districts are utilizing different methods to provide nutritious
meals through the COVID-19 pandemic. The “K-12 Child Nutrition: Serving students and families during COVID-19” webinar will be held at 1 p.m. Tuesday, April 21.
The webinar is sponsored by the editorial teams of Nation’s
Restaurant News, Restaurant Hospitality, and Food Management magazines. She
will be joined by Minneapolis Public Schools Director of Culinary and Wellness
Services Bertrand Weber and Londonderry School District Director of Dining
Services Amanda Venezia.
When HISD Nutrition Services Senior Operations
Manager Keith Lewis drove up to NRG Stadium Saturday for the massive food
distribution effort, he wasn’t nervous. He was excited.
As he walked up to NRG Stadium’s yellow
parking lot site and saw cars wrapped around the block, his excitement grew.
“I knew we had a team of Nutrition
Services employees that were going to show up and rock it,” Lewis said. “It’s
what we do every single day.”
When Brenda Williams learned that the Houston Independent
School District was closing due to COVID-19, her first thought was whether she
would have enough food to feed her three grandchildren without school meals.
Williams previously received help from a local church, but
that option became unavailable due to the pandemic. Now, Williams visits the
district’s food distribution sites. The process, she said, is easy. She pulls
up, pops her trunk, and the groceries are placed right inside.
“I appreciate what they’re doing, extending their hand to
help,” Williams said, noting that staff are always helpful and the line moves
fast. “It comes in handy during these times of need. Food on the table is
better than no food on the table.”