Rural Minnesota school districts provided on a daily average 57 percent of meals that they provided in February, according to the results of a MREA survey of superintendents released today.
Schools are using multiple methods of delivering meals.
- 85% use paraprofessionals to assist in providing nutrition
- 67% use bus drivers
- 17% report shortages in nutrition. The majority of the shortages were in bags and other packaging materials.
Morale among nutrition staff remains high.
- 60% report that morale is higher than usual for this time of year.
Superintendents described practical ways they support their nutrition staff. Examples include:
- Checking in with them daily and maintaining open lines of communication.
- Shifting start and end times for kitchen staff to allow for meal packaging and delivery.
- Providing enough paraprofessional help in the kitchen and in daily delivery. Letting them flex hours to get out the daily food and going home when done.
- Organizing them into two separate groups to provide a back-up if a member has signs of COVID-19. This gives them some additional time off and limits how many are in the kitchen at any one time.
- Rotating schedules
- Giving shout outs, sending emails, sharing personal thanks and providing encouragement
- Meeting with staff daily to make sure small issues do not become big ones.
- Cheering, rock and roll music
Should distance learning continue to the end of the school year, superintendents listed these as key challenges moving forward:
- If staff become impacted with COVID-19, then it could wipe out the school staff.
- Funding. Schools approached meal delivery with the assumption that they would receive the SFSP waiver for as long as needed. It would help if Minnesota receives a waiver to allow meals for all students, regardless of economic status, for the duration of the school closure period.
- Providing a variety of meals, keeping cold foods cold when the weather heats up, and finding a way to provide hot lunches.
- Shortages in meal preparation supplies, limited variety in meals, which may be less appealing to students.
- Keeping up with the pace as more students seek meals each day.
See more survey results on distance learning in rural Minnesota.
Stay apprised of resources and news on COVID-19 for schools at: MREAvoice.org/covid19