Beaufort County School District revises free student meal distribution

in Community/Health/News/Schools by

Staff reports
Photo by Bob Sofaly

Following an initial week that saw more than 17,000 free student meals distributed county-wide, the Beaufort County School District on Monday, March 23, consolidated breakfast and lunch pick-ups during the coronavirus-related school shut-down.

Now, any child younger than 18 can get two free meals – a breakfast and a lunch – each weekday using a single trip. The free meals can be picked up from 9 a.m. until noon at 12 sites scattered through Beaufort County as well as through a network of 20-minute school bus stops.

The revised schedule of bus stops has been posted on the school district’s website (beaufortschools.net) and social media platforms. Parents and students were to be informed about the changes over the weekend through phone calls and e-mails.

“This new procedure will make meal pick-ups safer and more convenient,” Superintendent Frank Rodriguez said in a news release. “Parents and students will have to make only one trip per day instead of two, and they also will shorten the amount of time they’re exposed to possible illness.”

Working with Sodexo, its food service contractor, the school district began distributing free meals last Monday, the first day of statewide school closures ordered by Gov. Henry McMaster because of health concerns related to COVID-19. All schools are currently closed through March 31.

During the shutdown, any child age 18 or younger can receive free breakfasts and lunches regardless of meal status during the school year.

Meals are prepared and transported to 12 sites across the county: Battery Creek High, Beaufort High, Beaufort Middle, Bluffton High, Hilton Head Island High, James J. Davis Early Childhood Center, Okatie Elementary, Red Cedar Elementary, St. Helena Elementary, Whale Branch Early College High, Whale Branch Middle School and the Port Royal YMCA.

Drive-through meal pick-ups will now be available in the bus rider drop-offs at each location each weekday from 9 a.m. until noon. Students must be present at the time of pick up, and all food will be “grab-and-go,” with no food consumed on site.

Meal pick-up procedures also are being improved to enhance safety. When picking up meals at one of the 12 distribution sites, parents will be asked how many children are in the car. They will then pull their vehicle forward to a space when they can exit their vehicles and pick up the correct number of meals from a table.

The revised procedures are designed to maintain safe physical distances between parents, students, food service workers and bus drivers.

Breakfast items vary and may include cereal with milk, fruit, Fruit Frudels, whole grain Pop Tarts, cereal bars, milk and juice. Lunches are sandwiches, fruit, fresh vegetables and milk.

School Meal Pick-up Spots

Free meals can be picked up from 9 a.m. until noon at 12 sites scattered through Beaufort County as well as through a network of 20-minute school bus stops.

Drive-through pickups

Battery Creek High School

Beaufort High School

Beaufort Middle School

Bluffton High School

Hilton Head Island High School

James J. Davis Early Childhood Center

Okatie Elementary School

Red Cedar Elementary School

St. Helena Elementary School

Whale Branch Early College High School

Whale Branch Middle School

Port Royal YMCA

Bus-stop pickups

The revised schedule of bus stops has been posted on the school district’s website (beaufortschools.net).

Above: Students in Beaufort County Schools who regularly get school breakfast and lunch aren’t having to go without while schools are closed during the coronavirus pandemic. Michelle Ferguson, left, and Jashareon Wells of Sodexo, pack up school lunches consisting of one sandwich, a fruit, pre-packaged vegetables and a carton of milk. Ferguson said they started out by giving out a few more than 200 lunches on Monday. She said by Friday, March 20, they were up to 800 free lunches.