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Schools suspend meal service

Tuesday, March 24, 2020
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Leader photo by CALEB DANIEL

Shannon Lee hands milk to a child as part of the supplied breakfast at Cypress Springs Elementary School last week. On Monday, the Lincoln Parish School Board announced it is suspending its meal pickup service starting today. The last meals were handed out on Monday.

The Lincoln Parish School Board announced Monday it is suspending its meal pickup service starting today.

After serving children some 11,000 meals at eight school sites last week as schools started a nearly month-long forced closure, the district held its last distribution Monday morning. Workers distributed an average of four meals per child Monday in an effort to “get us through to spring break” on March 30, Superintendent of Schools Mike Milstead said.

Milstead said the decision was made following a conference call with state leaders Sunday afternoon. The main factor was a shortage of masks, gloves, thermometers and other safety equipment for food services workers.

“We had enough masks (Monday) for everybody, but we don’t have any more,” he said. “Since we can’t guarantee that our employees aren’t sick, we think it’s in the best interest of our employees and our students that we not continue service past today.” A message was sent out to school district parents around noon Monday notifying them of the change. Meal pickup ended at 11 a.m.

Parents were reportedly not previously notified that Monday’s pickup service was intended to cover a week’s worth of meals.

“The issue is not whether feeding students is important,” Monday’s message reads. “We all agree that it is. At the same time, staff and employee safety must also be considered.”

Data from earlier in the school year indicates that nearly half of the school district’s students rely on free lunches from schools.

In response to the growing spread of COVID-19 in Louisiana, Gov. John Bel Edwards ordered all public schools closed from March 16 to April 13. Lincoln Parish reported its first two confirmed cases of the coronavirus Sunday.

The school board had originally planned to maintain its meal pickup system through the end of school closure, except for the planned spring break next week.