TAMPA — After running short at some food distribution centers last week, the Hillsborough County School District is tightening its protocols in advance of Wednesday’s meal service.
In a letter to school district families, Superintendent Addison Davis asked parents to bring their students’ school identification numbers when they arrive between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. to receive school food. Children typically know this as their “lunch number,” and it also can be found on the Edsby platform they are using for their home lessons.
For those who are not in the system — private school students, homeschooled students and those who have not yet entered school — the workers at the food distribution sites will ask for the children’s names and dates of birth, so they can keep track of who is being served.
“We want to ensure all students who need a nutritious meal have access,” the notice said. Parents should expect longer wait times because of this documentation system. To speed things up, they are advised to create signs for their dashboards, with the student numbers written in large, easy-to-see print.
As in other school districts nationwide, the Hillsborough student nutrition department has taken a leading role in combatting hunger as unemployment spikes during the COVID-19 crisis. For the past month, Hillsborough employees have been handing out packaged food at 147 schools and more than 300 bus stops in high-poverty areas.
Food is offered to all children under 18, or under 21 if they have special needs, regardless of income. The service was already very popular when, last week, the district changed from daily feedings to larger, weekly packages to cut down on contact that could transmit the virus.
The weekly service was more popular than they expected. The district estimates that seven percent of the sites — a combination of schools and bus stops — ran out of food before 1 p.m. Reports that some recipients were getting food from multiple sites and then putting the bundles up for sale led district officials to tighten up the procedure.