Bibb Schools Provide Meals During Virtual Learning


Jeremy Timmerman, Bibb County Schools

Bus driver Michael Huff and cashier Barbara Blair load meals onto a school bus at Burdell-Hunt Magnet Elementary School.

LaShonza Young is a working mom who knows well the cost of COVID-19 for her family.  

This Macon mom has two girls, a 16-year-old at Westside High, and a 9-year-old at Taylor Elementary. While schooling from home has given her some new virtual issues to deal with,  Young says making sure her girls eat nutritiously is one less thing she has to worry about. 

“We’re all trying to navigate with this new virtual learning and trying to get used to the way things are right now. This is sort of uncharted territory for everyone,” she said.

Young joins many families across the district benefiting from Bibb County School’s Seamless Summer Option. She says she really appreciates it.

“I was just really impressed with the way the school district has handled having to restructure with not a whole lot of time. And, having the forethought to make sure that the children had these meals in place,” Young said. “So I think that’s really important for the families in this community to make sure that their children are going to have the food that they need, and get the adequate nutrition while they’re learning.”

The Seamless Summer Option is the long running USDA program that has been tailored to meet the unique needs of families doing virtual school. During the summer, the program only provided curbside meal pick ups. This fall, the Seamless Summer Option provides breakfast and or lunch by bus delivery at neighborhood bus stops, and at schools where multiple meals can be picked up. LaShonza Young picks up her daughters meals from one school.

“Everyone’s financial standing isn’t going to be the same. So I think this is really helpful for people who might have multiple children and are dealing with the fallout from the pandemic,” Young said.

Bibb County School District Chief of Staff, Keith Simmons says one of the biggest goals has been eliminating inconveniences for families.

 “In the absence of this model, the high school student would have to go to his school, and the elementary or middle school student would have to go to their school. And if you know anything about our community, not all of our schools are located on the same property,” Simmons said.

Simmons says the program is also set up to make meal requests easy, while eliminating food waste.  Families wanting meals for the day or the week fill out an online form using the child’s lunch number. Orders must be received in the system by 9 a.m.  Meals drop offs at bus stops, and curbside pickups at school sites are on Mondays and Wednesdays. Simmons explains that the ordering process is customized to include the number of meals needed, and if families need meals picked up or dropped off.

Crossing guard and lunchroom monitor Carmenita Shine helps pack bagged lunches at Burdell-Hunt Magnet Elementary School. (Jeremy Timmerman, Bibb County Schools)

“We give them a slew of bus locations based on where they live, and communicate to them a range of times in which that bus will arrive at their location,” he said.  

Simmons says he is actually humbled by the behind the scenes work shared by his staff. He says the nutrition and transportation departments are operating as one. Employees are doing everything necessary

from prepping meals to driving buses. His staff makes sure to identify students needing meals, and even create new bus routes for meal deliveries when necessary.

“We have to do it in a manner in which we can provide as little disruption to the instruction mode as possible, but also recognizing a hungry child is just not going to be in the best position to learn,” Simmons said.

Statistics show Bibb County children do not rank well among other communities as it relates to food security.

George McCanless, chief executive officer of the United Way of Central Georgia, said puts 23% of the people in Bibb County as food insecure, which is almost double the national average, and 27% of the children in Bibb are food insecure, which is above the national and state averages.

McCanless says a bad situation would becomes critical if children were to lose the breakfasts and lunches traditionally received while in school. 

“We’re all getting used to living and working, and surviving in this new COVID driven environment. I applaud the school system for figuring out a way, even though they had to do virtual schools, to make sure that didn’t mean that children were going to lose access to the food,” he said.

Nutrition assistant Alicia Jackson packs a cooler of lunches at Burdell-Hunt Magnet Elementary School. (Jeremy Timmerman, Bibb County Schools)

According to Keith Simmons the number of students participating in the Seamless Summer Option varies daily. He calculates about 20 out of the district’s 33 schools are participating, and there are more than 100 buses on normal busy routes.