Athens City School District employees delivering door-to-door meals [Picture courtesy: Aditya Sahasrabudhe]

Athens City School District Quickly Delivers Thousands of Meals

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ATHENS, Ohio- Athens City School District is delivering door-to-door meals to K-12 students who are staying home while the schools remain closed.

After the fourth day of deliveries, ASCD had delivered more than 4200 door-to-door meals. With more than 1000 meal deliveries every day, Superintendent Tom Gibbs, said he foresees an increase in the number.

“My guess is that number will increase over the couple of weeks as we see more people losing hourly work, especially in a community like ours that has a strong service industry because a lot of those businesses were considered non-essentials and recently closed,” he said.

With schools shut down and “Stay at Home” orders in effect, Ohio school kids had started to lose out on free meals provided at schools.

The breakfast and lunch delivered are shelf-stable and don’t need refrigeration. The superintendent said he wishes he could provide hot meals but long bus routes are spread over 89 square miles, and absence of a mechanism to keep the food fresh, that would be unmanageable.

To increase the overall nutrition content, ASCD employees are putting fresh fruits in the delivery packages. Gibbs said he understands the gravity of providing meals to growing kids.

“We know good nutrition is very important for growing bodies and minds,” he said.

Other districts in Ohio have implemented various delivery mechanisms. Mainly, they have different points in the community where they are dropping food off or having food available.

Gibbs said he and his team came up with the idea of door-to-door meal deliveries that complies with the idea of social distancing.

“My concern with that was when you do that, you are asking a group of students to all come to one location which seems a bit counter to the concept of social distancing,” he said.

ACSD employee prepares to drop off breakfast and lunch packet [Picture courtesy: Aditya Sahasrabudhe]
Signing up for free meals was made possible through an online survey that was open a couple of days last week. Additional measures like emails and telephone messages were also sent.

Gibbs requests families at home to take precautionary measures while the meals are being delivered to their porches or other locations – and keep their pets on a leash.

“Our employees are going back home to their families, so, making sure there is not direct interaction,” Gibbs said.

“We had some concerns where people who had pets- particularly dogs that might not have been leashed – and so that made our folks a little bit nervous.”

Apart from the meal deliveries, the district is also giving Chromebooks to students in need. After an overwhelming response for nearly 1300 Chromebooks, the district plans to provide the technology to everyone in need.

Chromebook pickups began last week at three locations – Athens Middle School, East-West, and The Plains Elementary School. ACSD also plans to deliver mobile hotspots by April 1.

The meal deliveries will continue until schools re-open or the end of the semester.