COLUMBIA, Mo. (KMIZ)
Columbia Public Schools announced updated routes for its grab and go meal delivery program on Monday.
The update includes 20 new bus stops and a new route in south Columbia for families to pick up meals. The new routes go into effect on Thursday.
According to the update, bus stops will be designed regionally to include as many high-need areas as possible instead of going to school-specific areas.
Nutrition services director, Laina Fullum, said the department received feedback from the CPS community about areas they were missing for their meal service.
"We've been getting lots of positive feedback that the meals are comprehensive," Fullum said. "That they are well balanced. There is a lot of food in there. Kids miss school lunch."
She said she was also able to get confirmation recently from the Department of Education to add more schools for free meals, which allows them to serve more students free.
The program has been running for three weeks and Fullum said it has been successful. All students ages 2-18 can receive a meal regardless if they qualify for the free and reduced-price meal program.
One of the reasons Fullum said the meal service has been successful is because of neighborhood lunch clubs.
"There is a grassroots neighborhood group, set of neighborhood groups that are getting together and trying to make it more accessible to our students which is very nice," Fullum said.
Founder of COMO Lunch Clubs, Jennifer Roberts said her organization's main goal is to get meals to all students, no matter their need.
She said the creation of lunch clubs has lifted a burden for some families.
"Also to make sure it was as accessible as possible," Roberts said. "Even though we have 80 bus stops, when you have kids that are in Zoom classes the odds of you being free during that time aren't great."
Roberts said more families are taking advantage of being able to have meals delivered to their doorstep and more neighborhoods have joined her group to create their own clubs.
“It’s grown a lot," Roberts said. "It took about 6 days for us to have 19 clubs popped up.”
She said for some people there is a stigma about free food but she wants people to know that the food is for everyone no matter the need and kids have enjoyed the food so far.
"A lot of people think it’s going to be an uncrustable peanut butter and jelly sandwich everyday," Roberts said. "It couldn't be further from the truth. Most often ready to bake meals so that it is a hot meal. And they range in entrees from like baked chicken which is what the kids had today."
Roberts said she encourages people to take advantage of the CPS meal service because it helps both families and the school.
Children not enrolled in CPS schools are also allowed to receive a meal as long as the child's name, parent/guardian information and contact information are provided.
In addition to the bus stops, CPS nutrition services staff are available for meal pick-up weekdays between 9:30 and 11:00 a.m. at the following school buildings:
- Hickman High School
- Lange Middle School
- Smithton Middle School
- John Warner Middle School