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.

Supporting Staffing

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

Looking Forward

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.



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