The original plan was to let families to pick up the meals.

Now, the meals have been brought to them.

The Livingston Parish Public Schools system is distributing thousands of prepackaged meals to families across the parish, Superintendent Joe Murphy announced Wednesday.

The announcement comes three days after the school system shut down all facilities and operations — including the drive-thru meals service plan it implemented last week — in response to Gov. John Bel Edwards’ statewide “stay at home” order amid the novel coronavirus.

Sommer Purvis, supervisor of Child Nutrition, said a collection of school employees and volunteers spent the past two days packaging meals, with each bag containing enough food for five lunch meals and three breakfast meals.

A total of 6,000 shelf stable meals have been packaged, Purvis said, and all meet the nutritional guidelines of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

“This opportunity provides us with a much safer, more efficient way to get food to our people, so we felt confident in moving forward with this plan,” Purvis said.

The district initially planned to distribute hot meals to local families through a twice-a-week, drive-thru service amid the coronavirus, which has shut down all schools statewide through April 12. The first day saw some 14,000 meals get passed out at 14 different sites across the parish.

But that program — which utilized many volunteers, food service professionals and teachers to prepare and distribute the meals — proved problematic under the order and call for social distancing.

But with the district’s recent access to prepackaged food, a small number of volunteers were able to safely gather to package food items that were picked up Wednesday by principals and school personnel, who then delivered the food items to needy families.

Holden High School Principal Kris Roundtree said her staff divided the community into quadrants to better organize distribution of the food. She anticipated all the packages being delivered in one day.

Southside Junior High Principal Wes Partin and ESL Director Yvette Spears picked up the boxes and delivered them to strategic locations, as well as door-to-door, in their community, which encompasses the southern area of Denham Springs.

“At this time, we are not sure when or if we can obtain additional shipments,” Purvis said, “so we’re trying to give families one week’s worth of provisions, which hopefully can help to sustain them until additional product is available or the supplemental food services programs suggested by the state are available.

Purvis said she has applied for enrollment in an emergency food service program through Baylor Collaborative on Hunger and Poverty. The program assists school districts in finding vendors that can ship meals directly to students in need, but she is unsure whether there is a vendor that can service Livingston Parish.

“We know this is a critical service for so many of our families,” Murphy said. “That’s why our food service staff and central office leadership have worked feverishly to find a way to feed our children.

“Although we had to suspend our original action plan, we in no way stopped working to find a new plan to provide for our children. We are currently exploring all other options to continue this plan beyond today. We have begun applying for other provisions and searching for new ways and opening new doors to get food to our children.”

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