Bus driver William Reed makes nine stops along his route in the Pendergast Elementary School District to deliver meals, as well as an extra stop at the house of a mom of eight who uses a walker to save her the block-long walk.
When Pendergast officials learned school buildings would close because of COVID-19, they issued computers to students to use at home.
But for some kids, no school can also mean no food, or not enough anyway.
“A school district is a community,” said Caleb Hollman, transportation director. They would take care of not only their own students but anyone younger than 18.
It was a Friday. Could they pull it off by Monday? They’d have to, said Jamie Triolo, food services director.
“What’s the acceptable amount of time you’d let a kid go without food?” he asked.
Hollman scheduled eight buses to traverse the 20-square-mile district daily to deliver meals. Families also could pick up at schools.
They thought they would do it for a month. It’s been almost a year.
On a recent day, breakfast was French toast, a sausage patty, tater tots, strawberries and juice. Lunch was cheese enchiladas, refried beans, an apple and milk. On Fridays, kids receive six meals to get them through the weekend.
At the start, they provided 14,000 meals a day. That number is down to 6,000.
Linda Mendoza picks up meals for her grandchildren while their parents work. It’s one less thing for them to worry about.
Reed pulled his bus over outside Andrea Stegall’s house. Her daughter, Myla, 10, said her favorite is the chicken nuggets. She’s learning fractions remotely.
Stegall has three school-age daughters. Stegall signed up for meals after taking in two foster children, both boys and big eaters.
“I think it makes it seem like they’re still in school,” Reed said. That connection is important. For him, too.
“It gives you a sense of purpose,” he said, “that you’re doing something to help.”
Support local journalism. Subscribe to azcentral.com today.
Read or Share this story: https://www.azcentral.com/story/news/local/karinabland/2021/02/28/year-later-schools-still-feeding-kids-learning-remotely/6844001002/