Scripps News Investigates

Students In Need Get Meals Delivered

Curbside pick-ups, drive-thrus and deliveries by bus are ways school officials are making sure their students are fed during the coronavirus pandemic.

Students In Need Get Meals Delivered
Carrie Cochran

"Well, normally I deliver students, but // For the last few weeks, we've been delivering meals to people that are in need in our community because of the outbreak of the coronavirus," said Rick Groger a bus driver in Boone County, Ky. 

Rick Groger is one of many bus drivers picking up meals this morning in Boone County, Ky. They now deliver about 8,000 free meals to students each day. 

"How many did you need? Two? There you go," Groger said to a student. 

Each crate is stocked with packs of milk, apples, oranges and sandwiches -- breakfast and lunch for one child. Before the Coronavirus it, 40% of the district's students relied on free and reduced-cost food.

When public schools across the country shut their doors last month, local officials scrambled to help kids who rely on school for food. 

Arizona and Colorado set up curbside pick-ups and drive-thrus.

And in Montana officials set up both school pick-ups and bus delivery routes for students in need.

“We found this would be better to get food to our community because those bus stops are in neighborhoods and closer to home,” said Rob Watson, Superintendent of Missoula County Public School in Montana. 

The U.S. Department of Agriculture regulates the school meal programs, which provided free and reduced price lunches to nearly 22 million kids and breakfast to almost 13 million kids last year.

The agency has issued eleven nationwide child nutrition waivers to make it easier for kids to get food outside of school. Now parents can pick up meals without their kids present and states can deliver food to students. 

In Kentucky, Groger is doing what he can to protect himself and others to keep this service running as long as possible.

Latex gloves, hand sanitizer, and a table to keep a safe distance. 

"After this run, we'll sanitize this, so this whole area. So when the next worker comes in or what have you, the bus is clean for them," said Groger. 

Nearby districts have had to halt their delivery service after workers became infected with the coronavirus.

"“We didn’t run out, you look good," Groger said to a cafeteria worker.

 "We're always welcome to smiles and thanks," Groger said. "We're providing a real service here and we're doing something good for our community. And I think we should continue doing that as long as possible. And as long as we can do so with mitigating risk."