Raymondville ISD reopens growing school meal program

school lunch

RAYMONDVILLE — The school district reopened food service Monday after closing the program last week following confirmation of a Pittman Elementary School student as Willacy County’s first confirmed case of coronavirus infection.

Last Thursday, district officials shut down food distribution based on a federal order requiring them to close schools for two

to five days in cases in which students are found to have contracted the virus, Deputy Superintendent Ben Clinton said.

“It feels so good to get services going again,” Clinton said, adding many families in this low-income farming area count on the meals to help feed their children. “There are kids who need these meals.”

A state investigation found the Pittman campus along with other district schools safe because they had been closed since March 13, when local officials shut them down in response to the virus outbreak, Clinton said.

“In review of the measures and protocols taken for food services, you are taking appropriate measures to continue to protect families and your staff,” Dr.

Emilie Prot, regional medical director for Public Health Region 11 in Harlingen, wrote Sunday in a letter to Clinton.

“Please continue to implement social distancing, avoiding direct contact between your staff and families, strict hand-washing and wearing gloves,” she wrote.

“These measures will continue to ensure good public health.”

State allows parents to pick up meals

Meanwhile, a state policy change is helping to drive up the district’s food distribution, Clinton said. On Monday, state officials began allowing parents to pick up breakfast and lunch for their children who are enrolled as students, he said. District officials are also distributing meals to children who are not enrolled within the district, Clinton said, adding parents whose children aren’t enrolled must provide children’s documentation.

Meal distribution climbing

As a result of the policy change, the district is distributing rapidly growing numbers of meals, Clinton said.

Last week, the district served as few as 700 meals.

On Monday, campuses served 1,299 breakfast meals and 1,299 lunches, Clinton said.

Those numbers are expected to climb.

“We’re looking to have a big increase,” Clinton said. The economic impact stemming from government response to the virus might help drive public schools’ food distribution.

Across the country, millions have lost jobs as the result of a federal order limiting group gatherings to 10 to prevent the spread of the virus.

“Our families are struggling right now,” Clinton said. “Anything I can help I want to be a part of that.”

fdelvalle@valleystar.com