McAllen ISD school buses to deliver ‘Grab & Go’ meals to low-income communities during coronavirus scare


Unlike summer program, children will not eat on the buses

McALLEN, Texas (Border Report) — Despite shuttering its doors and going to online instruction to prevent the spread of coronavirus, the largest school district in McAllen on Monday will begin delivering grab-and-go meals to children in this low-income region.

McAllen Independent School District will send yellow school buses full of hot lunches — and a cold breakfast for the following morning — to 11 drop points throughout the city, including at four school campuses.

“The meals are available for anybody under age 18. They don’t have to be in McAllen ISD. This includes toddlers and very small children,” Alexandra Molina, director of the district’s nutrition services, told Border Report on Wednesday morning. “Now that schools are closed, there is an increased need and we want to make sure all children in the area are fed properly.”

The “Grab & Go” program is similar to the district’s widely praised summer feeding program, which sends school buses full of meals to stops throughout the city where many low-income residents live. However, children will not eat on the buses as they do in the summer. They will merely pick up the food and leave. And rather than delivering dinner meals, there will only be one food pickup opportunity per day, Molina said.

“We’re really trying not to expose children and staff more than one time per day,” Molina said. “We’re trying to practice good social distancing.”

McAllen ISD, along with many school districts in South Texas, has announced that when Spring Break ends this week that classes will be taught online starting Monday through April 3. But there is a general expectation that date will be extended if COVID-19 cases are confirmed in the region.

Hidalgo County, as well as several other area counties, have already passed health emergency declarations ordering residents not to congregate in groups over 50 people.

Read a Border Report story on recent South Texas declarations.

South Texas has some of the highest poverty levels in the state and nation. The South Texas counties of Hidalgo, Cameron, Willacy, Zapata and Starr are the top five counties in the state of Texas with the highest rate of poverty, according to 2015 Census data on counties. In 2017, Hidalgo County had a poverty rate of 31.8%, and 45.5% of children live in poverty, according to Census data.

Funding for the district’s school bus summer meals program is contingent upon the children eating together, but Molina said the district has applied for a waiver from the Texas Department of Agriculture given the unprecedented current coronavirus crisis and CDC recommendations for social distancing.

Aside from that, as this situation extends from week to week, they are also concerned about being supplied fresh fruits and vegetables and meeting TDA requirements for serving certain foods.

“We know eventually we’re going to have an issue with fresh produce and truck runs. Our food distributors come from all over the country and given this situation we know some of that will stop,” she said.

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