ST. PAUL (WCCO) — Outside Como Senior High School the orange busses are rolling again. Only this time it is without students on board.

The long line of school busses are instead packed with cardboard boxes and cases of milk.

“We have basically taken our school lunch program out of the cafeterias and put them onto busses,” St. Paul Public School’s Stacy Koppen said.

Koppen is the Director of Nutrition Services for the district. Before the COVID-19 pandemic began, two-thirds of all SPPS students qualified for free or reduced meals.

Since mid-March, all 37,000 students have been on lockdown at home. Concern over hunger and proper child nutrition has only gotten worse.

Adds Koppen, “right now, with the unemployment soaring in Minnesota, we know it is exponentially higher,” Koppen said.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Summer Food Service Program combats hunger during normal summer recess. A USDA waiver allowed the district to begin the program an early start. In just the past two months, the district has delivered over two-million meals.

“Right now during the pandemic we know it’s more important than ever,” Koppen said.

Boxes containing the staples for a full week’s worth of breakfasts and lunch are packed onto busses. Along with jugs of milk, staff set out across the district.

Stopping in neighborhoods where they’ll go door-to-door.

Other districts on the USDA program rely mostly on curbside pickup.

“Food insecurity is definitely what drives us – we’re to make sure that no child goes hungry,” Koppen said.

St. Paul’s approach takes it a step further. Firmly believing that direct deliveries remove the final roadblock to essential student nutrition.

A USDA waiver will allow St. Paul Public Schools to continue deliveries through the end of August.

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