AUSTIN (KXAN) — Austin Independent School District saw a major increase in free summer meal pickups amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
AISD passed out hundreds of thousands of free meals to families in need this summer.
“There is a lot of people in need right now,” said Shelley Vlcek, food service manager with AISD. “We are just very grateful to do what we can.”
Vlcek and her team spend their week, Monday through Friday, from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., handing out meals to families at Burnet Middle School.
This summer has kept her staff extra busy preparing meals and passing them out as COVID-19 has impacted so many families in the district.
“We have been serving about 15,000 meals a day from over 40 curbside locations,” said Anneliese Tanner, executive director of food service and warehouse operations with AISD. The 15,000 meals are for both students and their caregivers.
Tanner says because of the need for these meals, they have extended the program through December.
Any child under the age of 19 may receive one breakfast and one lunch meal daily, Monday-Thursday, with Fridays as the weekend meal distribution day. No application or identification is needed, and children can simply show up at any participating site to receive a healthy meal.
AISD will also serve meals to students over the age of 19 who are utilizing special education resources or currently enrolled in school to complete the requirements for a high school diploma.
Caregiver meals will be available only to the adults accompanying children or with documentation of the children they are picking meals up for.
“The increase in meals really highlights how COVID-19 has increased food insecurity in Austin,” Tanner said.
Right now, Austin ISD is serving about 6,750 free meals a day to students, but if there wasn’t a pandemic they would be giving out more than 60,000 free meals a day.
“Even though there are a lot of families taking advantage and needing access to food over the summer, comparatively to a regular school year we do know that we aren’t reaching all our students who do need food resources,” Tanner said.
One parent, who wished to remain anonymous, says the program has helped tremendously.
“Once COVID hit back in March of this year it has been a little harder because I haven’t been able to work as much,” the parent of two said. “This has made it possible to put good nutritious meals on our kids’ plates.”
During a normal summer AISD serves about 250,000 meals. This summer with COVID-19 that number up to 750,000 meals.
To provide food for the holiday weekend, students and their caregivers received two meal packs Thursday and will receive three meal packs Friday.
Caregiver meals are made possible through funding from the City of Austin and the AISD Crisis Support Fund, established by the Austin Ed Fund. Food is available until it runs out.
Meals will feature foods that are cooked and prepared by staff in Austin ISD kitchens. These meals will be chilled and served cold to be taken home and reheated. The healthy meals served will include protein, grains, fruits, vegetables and milk.