After Nassau County suspended meal delivery for students, a pastor and volunteers stepped up

Operation required over 100 bus drivers and food service workers, many of whom are elderly and have underlying health conditions

NASSAU COUNTY, Fla. – The Nassau County School District has suspended its bus route meal delivery program for students.

The district said the move comes in response to Gov. Ron DeSantis’s safer-at-home order and is meant to minimize the possibility of exposing students and staff to the novel coronavirus.

“This was a difficult decision since we realize that the bus routes benefited thousands of children in Nassau County this week,” the district wrote in a statement posted to Facebook on Friday. “However, with the new order, the District would not have the staff to continue this service. This operation required over 100 bus drivers and food service workers, many of whom are elderly and/or have underlying medical conditions requiring them to stay at home.”

Parent Tiffney McFarland was frustrated by the move.

“So not only are you having parents go to the school and pick up but you’re also asking them to put their children in jeopardy as well because your children have to be there to pick up those meals,” McFarland said.

The bus route delivery service ran two days before the district announced it was canceled. On Wednesday alone, 9,800 meals were served on the bus route and another 2,000 were picked up at school.

After the decision, Callahan First Baptist Church Pastor Lynn Hyatt said he reached out to the superintendent.

“We talked with the superintendent of schools Dr. [Kathy] Burns and said ‘Hey, if I can get some volunteers would it be possible for us to possibly make some deliveries?’ and so she is supposed to contact me tomorrow to let me know if those details are going to come together,” Hyatt said.

He said there are about 30 to 35 volunteers waiting to deliver meals to the front porches of students in need to avoid direct contact.

“It’s critically important because many of these kids would not have a good meal unless these meals were provided and so to us, we just try to put ourselves in the position of those parents who want to provide for their kids but maybe can’t because of the loss of a job or a cut in hours or maybe some other set of circumstances that they are struggling with, whatever their circumstances are it’s not the kids’ fault,” Hyatt said.

Buses were used to deliver meals and schoolwork at bus stops three times per week.

Meals will still be available at drive-thru sites at Southside Elementary, Yulee Middle School, Callahan Elementary and Hilliard Middle Senior High.

The district said it is also adding Bryceville Elementary as a drive-thru site, but the hours at all five sites will be reduced from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

The district said the service could restart down the road.

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