Stephenville ISD started serving meals to children on March 16 during the current COVID-19 school shutdown and has since tripled in the number of children who are served meals daily.
SISD serves meals in two different ways: through the bus route and curbside.
“We run our bus route with food prepared for students so drivers will stop at all of their normal routes and the student and or parent and guardian can be present, and they receive their food at their house. For the students who do not ride the bus, we have a curbside available for any child 18 and under,” said Teri Hodges, executive director of finance and operations.
Food is distributed on Mondays and Wednesdays at Henderson Junior High. On Mondays, children receive breakfast and lunch for Monday and Tuesday. On Wednesdays, children receive breakfast and lunch for Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.
“[Giving food to students] is part of our job. We do it on a day-to-day basis. It’s just now we’re doing it a couple of times a week,” said Kim Reynolds, child nutrition manager at Gilbert Intermediate. “We definitely miss the kids. It’s nice knowing that we can still take care of them outside of school.”
SISD also delivers meals to the foster home and has partnered with Backpack Buddies of Erath County to serve meals to children in need.
From day one, SISD served around 305 meals. In just two and a half weeks, the service grew and as of Friday, April 10, SISD was serving 1,062 bags, with each bag containing two to three meals per bag.
“I'm glad that we have the ability to service our community,” said LaTona Carnahan, dispatcher. “I know several of our drivers feel the same way. We have some folks that are older, where the virus would maybe affect them, and they feel like they’ve got to serve their babies. They can’t let their babies go without food.”
Hodges wants to thank the “operations team” as she calls them, which consists of child nutrition managers, the transportation department and maintenance.
“Our child nutrition team, they are the ones that are preparing it. They prepare all of the meals. Our transportation department is obviously very involved. They’re running the routes and we deliver those meals to the families at the stops. Maintenance has been super helpful in helping us carry, transport, load and unload the volume of meals that we’re handing out,” Hodges said. “When I talk to them, I always tell them, ‘You’ve always been essential employees but now everyone’s getting to see that you guys truly are essential to this district and this community.’”
Hodges said the meals are not just for students in need – it's for any child ages 18 and below. They do not have to be an SISD student and they do not have to be a bus rider.
“It’s just really neat to see the community come together. Our operations team is working hard and showing up every day despite the fears. Everybody is masked and we’re in the proper equipment out there serving,” Hodges said. “We’re just really proud of their efforts and their willingness to serve and keep students first.”