School Meals Delivered: Stories from Decatur

Creativity is the name and collaboration is the game at Decatur School District. Poverty and food access were central worries for families in the Decatur community when the COVID-19 pandemic began in March. Students who thought they were leaving school only for a week to enjoy Spring break were suddenly forced to transition to online learning and be socially distant from friends and faculty. In this time of need, Aramark’s Scot Gregory and his team stepped up to the plate and immediately sprang into action to adjust the district’s meal service program. Within the week, the team was managing four drive-up sites distributing 500 to 600 meals 5 days a week.

During the summer months, Gregory had to pivot once again to meet the increasing need as the pandemic raged on. As a low-barrier initiative, the team began delivering meal packages to the doorstep of nearly every student in the district. All families were automatically enrolled in the program and had an option to opt-out if desired. By partnering with the district’s security and transportation departments, security officers served as delivery drivers using school district busses. Shortly, the food service team was distributing breakfasts and lunches to 6,500 students weekly. Rented refrigerated storage units and diesel generators to power them, paid for in part by a No Kid Hungry Emergency Grant, increased program capacity. Soon, Decatur’s weekly distribution numbers soared to nearly 75,000 meals. Despite inclement weather, technical difficulties, and the countless barriers presented by Covid-19, Gregory and his team fought tragedy with teamwork and pulled out ahead.

According to Gregory, though the future may seem challenging he is optimistic for what is to come in the Decatur community. He said that despite months of blood, sweat, and tears to get the program to where it is now, “If we can get through what we got through, I’m optimistic we can do whatever we need to do moving forward.”

For another look at Decatur’s meal delivery program, check out this video: