BEEBE, Ark. — As the pandemic forced schools across the state to close, the Beebe School District found a way to make sure it’s students didn’t miss the meals they’re guaranteed in school.
Monday through Friday, staff prepare lunch and breakfast, then put it in to-go containers that get loaded on buses. School bus drivers then run their usual route and drop off the meals.
“It’s all about the kids,” said Scott Chism, who works as a teacher, coach and bus driver. “The need is there or they wouldn’t be there. They’re there every stop, they’re waiting for us to get there. I had one mom tell me she was going to be able to make her house payment, her mortgage, because we were able to feed her children.”
A meal delivery service wasn’t in the original plan when school was forced to close, Chism says at first they were using designated drop off sites. He says it became clear the challenge of making it to those spots meant many students had to skip meals.
“We were going to designated stops and they were coming to us and we weren’t getting very many people at all,” he explained. “So we had the idea of let’s just run our bus route and that way we see everyone.”
Getting the meals on the road is an all hands on deck process.
Cafeteria staff prepare and cook the meals, maintenance staff help load the boxes onto buses, teachers volunteer to ride along for pass-outs, and school nurses check everyone’s temperature to help make sure no one who’s sick is going around the food.
“When you watch this go off every day, it gives you hope,” said Superintendent Dr. Chris Nail. “We have served over 35,000 meals since we’ve been out of school.”
Dr. Nail doesn’t doubt the deliveries are making a difference.
“I’ve gotten several emails and texts from people saying the only thing normal in their lives right now is seeing that yellow bus pull up,” he said.
It’s something Chism sees at every stop, serving kids a taste of normalcy when they need it more than ever.
“Taking care of them, that makes it all worthwhile,” he said.
Beebe Schools plan to continue the delivery service through the end of the school year.