When Ashley Walters, a Dayton Public Schools parent, heard that meals could be delivered to the homes of students, she was excited. She thought it was wonderful that the school system was providing meals for children during the COVID-19 emergency and going a step further by offering delivery. Then, she tried to make a request online, and saw what looked like an error message.
“It tells me that because of an overwhelming response, or something along those lines, they have had to close down the delivery service requests,” she said.
She says this public health emergency could not have come at a worse time for her family. Just last week, her car caught on fire and was totaled. Without a vehicle, she is not able to get to her house cleaning and food delivery jobs. Now she is struggling to feed her seven children, and does not have enough food for the next week.
“It's hard to explain without getting emotional because I put my kids, all of them, before anything,” she said. “My kids have never had to be hungry.”
Dayton Public Schools started offering meal pickup and delivery to students on Monday, following the state-mandated school shutdown.
“For a school system, it's our responsibility to make sure that education continues and to make sure that our students are fed,” said Dayton Public Schools Superintendent Elizabeth Lolli.
Meeting the number of requests for delivery has been a challenge. Lolli said close to 500 homes signed up for delivery for Monday, but that number had nearly tripled by Tuesday afternoon. They even had to switch from vans to buses.
“We stopped taking at-home delivery requests,” she said. “And then made sure that we had the capacity to actually deliver those meals that people had requested.”
Carrying out this responsibility under the governor’s new orders is a complicated task. At least 50 workers must spread out as they put together thousands of lunches and breakfasts. She says it is almost impossible to hand off food to families at their homes while maintaining social distancing.
“Something may have to happen differently than what we're doing right now, depending on what he [Governor DeWine] orders.”
She is anticipating the governor will shut even more things down, and she does not know what that will mean for their efforts to provide thousands of meals to feed the students of Dayton Public Schools.
Find out more details about Dayton Public Schools' food distribution plans here.