This story was originally published by Chalkbeat, a nonprofit news organization covering public education. Sign up for their newsletters here: ckbe.at/newsletters
One of the first considerations for any school district thinking about closing school, even for a single snow day is: How will children eat?
As schools across Colorado closed in March to slow the spread of coronavirus, food service directors and cafeteria workers swung into action, setting up an extensive network that has handed out hundreds of thousands of meals, many of them to families short on food for the first time.
But despite extensive efforts and growing need, these meals remain millions short of what districts would have served in normal times. Districts have been unable to approach pre-pandemic meal counts for a range of reasons, including confusion over the rules, lack of transportation, and narrow pickup windows that don’t meet the needs of harried parents.
The districts that have bucked this trend, like Westminster Public Schools, have done so by leveraging strong community networks and ramping up delivery options.
A Chalkbeat analysis of data from the first month of food distribution found that many metro area school districts are serving less than half of the meals they would have served if school were in session, in some cases much less.