School staff, state leaders working to make sure every child is fed when school year begins

School, state leaders working to make sure every child is fed during new school year

ASCENSION PARISH, La. (WAFB) - The cafeterias at Ascension Parish public schools will be empty when kids come back this year.

The children whose parents elected to send them to school will eat in the classrooms. It is just one of the ways school leaders have had to adapt to life amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We like to prepare for the worst and hope and pray for the best,” says Leuna Johnson, the Child Nutrition Supervisor at Ascension Schools. “My department has been thinking about this, and the district as a whole, since March 13.”

At the end of last school year, districts got a crash course on how to serve students during a pandemic. Many adopted a drive-thru system that allowed parents to come to the school to get their child’s meals.

“We were able to iron out the kinks at our schools when we served right after schools closed so we already know what to do,” Johnson says.

Ascension Parish will do the same thing for the upcoming school year. Any parent whose child is learning virtually can pick up their child’s meals, breakfast, and lunch, at the school.

“It’s going to be around brunch time so they can actually come before lunch shift starts and they’ll get, both meals will be available to them at one time,” Johnson says.

The meals they are getting will be hearty, she said. As food insecurities grow, in some cases, the food students will be getting from the school, whether in the classroom or at home, will be the only meals they get for the day.

“If this is their only meal or two per day it’s the heartiest we can give them so they can get back in front of that computer, get back to the books and we want to nourish their bodies so that their minds will also be nourished,” she says.

Making sure students are well-fed is also a priority for Louisiana’s Agriculture Commissioner Mike Strain. He is working with non-profits and vendors to ensure supply chains remain intact.

“The bottom line is no one in this country should go hungry and we have to analyze every situation and make the best determination to get food there and it has to be safe, it has to be economical, wholesome, and it’s got to be food kids will eat,” Strain says.

In Ascension Parish, Johnson says they are not worried though because they are prepared, so feeding your kids is one less thing parents have to worry about.

“We’re not tired we’re just ready,” she said.

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