Pasadena ISD serves 215,000 meals during COVID-19 school closures

Pasadena ISD serves 215,000 meals during COVID-19 school closures
Posted on 04/07/2020
Pasadena ISD serves 215,000 meals during COVID-19 school closures

By Reesha Brown
PISD Communications

Pasadena ISD child nutrition employees have been preparing meals since schools closed, March 17, to ensure that no child goes hungry amid the COVID-19 nationwide pandemic.

In PISD, 82 percent of students qualify for free-and-reduced meals, which means the district’s regular school meal program is a major safety net for students to receive breakfast and lunch each week throughout the school year.

Stepping up to the challenge, district officials worked closely with the child nutrition department to develop a plan and help families receive the meals that students depend on throughout the week. 

The district started a Curbside (drive-thru) Grab-and-Go Breakfast and Lunch program to provide meals to children in the safest way possible.

Parents can drive to any of the 10 campus sites in the district and receive breakfast and lunch from Child Nutrition staff.  The meals are hand-delivered on a sanitized tray to each driver upon arrival. The amount of food that is given to each family depends on the number of child occupants inside the vehicle.

As of April 7, cafeteria crews have served 215,000 meals since March 17.

“Our child nutrition team serves in the heat and the rain to make sure every family in line receives meals for their kids,” Mary Harryman, Child Nutrition director said.

The program started at the district’s traditional high schools and expanded to several middle and intermediate schools to increase access to meals. These campuses include Kendrick Middle, Shaw Middle, Beverly Hills Intermediate, Queens Intermediate and South Houston Intermediate. The high school distribution sites are Dobie, Sam Rayburn, Pasadena, South Houston and Pasadena Memorial.

Each site has a morning and afternoon shift, starting at 9 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., respectively. During each shift, cafeteria crews are required to follow basic protective measures to keep everyone safe from COVID-19. For instance, no more than 10 employees can work in the kitchen at a time. In each kitchen, there are X’s on the floor to remind employees to practice social distancing and work six feet apart. Staff members are also required to wear gloves and deliver meals on a tray.

“We strive to make our process as safe as possible for our staff and families receiving the meals,” said Harryman.

This unprecedented situation has not gone without its set of challenges. Coming off of the heels of Spring Break, Child Nutrition initially intended on providing meals on Monday, March 16, to kick off the first week of grab and go; however, “We had to find and transfer food in kitchens all over the district and deliver the food to our curbside sites,” Harryman said. “But we made it work and were able to serve 26,000 meals in the first four days.  Our second week, family participation grew exponentially and we served 72,000 meals. Our third week, we served over 91,000 meals.”

Harryman said that serving over 215,000 meals would not have been possible without the support of various departments and outside entities including the Pasadena ISD Police Department, the Print Shop and Operations teams, along with maintenance crews. 

“They have been there through every phase of this challenge,” said Harryman.

At one point, the district started running low on bags for the packaged meals, but Chevron, Academy and Food Town stepped in and donated additional bags to the district so cafeteria staff could continue serving meals.

Three weeks and 215,000 meals later, the child nutrition department has learned many lessons throughout this journey.

“We have had to learn what works and what doesn’t work for our district, adhere to state and federal guidance, and adapt as we go along to every changing factor. This has been unprecedented for everyone. Through it all our staff has remained strong and dedicated to serving our kids,” Harryman said.

For more information about the school district's Curbside Grab-and-Go meal program, click here!