"Meals on the Bus" brings school meals to U-46 communities

  • Karla Aycock, a food services tech at Bartlett High School, directs people to an Elgin Area School District U-46 food distribution site in a parking lot at Raymond and National streets in Elgin Wednesday. It was the first day of a project called "Meals on the Bus," which provides meals for school-age children that families can pick up from three dozen community locations.

      Karla Aycock, a food services tech at Bartlett High School, directs people to an Elgin Area School District U-46 food distribution site in a parking lot at Raymond and National streets in Elgin Wednesday. It was the first day of a project called "Meals on the Bus," which provides meals for school-age children that families can pick up from three dozen community locations. Rick West | Staff Photographer

  • Claudia Orduno, a food services technician at Bartlett High School, passes out the last two lunches to a woman at an Elgin Area School District U-46 food distribution site at Raymond and National streets in Elgin Wednesday.

      Claudia Orduno, a food services technician at Bartlett High School, passes out the last two lunches to a woman at an Elgin Area School District U-46 food distribution site at Raymond and National streets in Elgin Wednesday. Rick West | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 9/16/2020 5:44 PM

Elgin-Area School District U-46 is trying to cut the distance families need to go during distance learning to provide students with a healthy meal.

A new district program called "Meals on the Bus" kicked off Wednesday at three dozen community sites, providing packaged breakfasts and lunches for families to take home to all children 18 and under during distance learning. No paperwork is required, and the children do not need to be present.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Members of the U-46 Transportation Department and Food & Nutrition Services team are collaborating on the "Meals on the Bus" project, using some district minibuses to bring the food to the community sites, which include parks, apartment complexes, public buildings, and parking lots. Families can pick up food at existing school sites or at one of the new community sites.

Marla Ravlin, a U-46 Elementary Area Field Manager, was with a team of three other district employees that went to three locations in Elgin for about an hour at each spot. She said they distributed 96 meals in total at the three sites, with the busiest being their last stop at a parking lot at Raymond and National streets.

"People are very appreciative," Ravlin said. "Some of them are in really bad times right now, and having these different sites makes it easier to get to us, especially if they don't have a car."

The Meals on the Bus program involves 15 bus routes, each making about three scheduled stops on weekdays. Buses will be at each site for at least 40 minutes and up to two hours. An updated schedule and list of locations can be found at u-46.org/food-distribution.

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Karla Aycock, a food services technician from Bartlett High School who was out with Ravlin, said the team members received a lot of very heartening feedback.

"We've heard some parents say that just the little bit of normalcy of getting a school lunch is helping their kids to adapt better to e-learning. That normalcy of getting that little pint of milk makes them feel like they're a part of school still."

Between March 17 and Sept. 14, the U-46 Food & Nutrition Services department had distributed 1.92 million meals, according to a news release. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has granted schools free meal waiver flexibility through Dec. 31.

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