For thousands of children around the country, no school can mean no food.
For the leadership team in Hyde County, NC this dire situation meant taking action to feed the children in their county while public schools are closed during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Hyde County is on the coast of North Carolina, inland from the Outer Banks. The county has only two schools on the mainland — Mattamuskeet Elementary School (grades PK-5) and Mattamuskeet Early College High School (6-13). The Mattamuskeet campus has about 425 students between the two schools.
The governor of North Carolina reiterated that feeding children during the COVID-19 crisis was a priority. With parents working essential jobs, transportation challenges and people not wanting to leave their houses, a pick-up program from the school was not the best way to get food to the students. The leadership team knew they would need to go about it a different way to be successful.
The school district leadership, led by superintendent, Mr. Stephen Basnight, decided that using the bus system to deliver meals would allow them to reach every child in the county. Every weekday, school staff in masks and gloves drop of food at each child’s home. The team delivers meals to all children up to age 18, regardless of whether they attend a Hyde Co. public school or not.
The program started on March 17, and the leadership team had to work through a few logistical challenges to locate where children were staying during the day. Now, the nine bus routes are serving up to 500 students a day.
Children receive daily lunch and a breakfast for the next day. Lunch could be a hot dog, carrots with ranch dressing and a piece of fruit. Breakfast would be something simple, like prepackaged cereal or a chicken biscuit for them to heat up, along with juice and a carton of milk.
A local egg farm, Rose Acre Farms, also donated surplus eggs. The school district used the bus route to deliver them to students’ families — a welcome surprise.
The schools’ cafeteria workers come in early to prepare all the food and package it for transportation on the buses. This program also keeps bus drivers employed, and hourly teacher assistants are paid to ride along and handle passing out food. Other school staff also pitched in to ensure the meals go out on schedule.
Mattamuskeet Elementary School Principal Allison Etheridge recognizes the important work of the Mattamuskeet team to make this program a reality and knows the community is grateful as well.
“The school feeding all the children has really impressed the community,” Etheridge said. “The kids are able to go outside and get their food; it’s something they can count on like clockwork. There’s a different appreciation for the people driving the buses and making the meals. Everyone’s feeling lucky to have food come right to their doors.”