Parents of Hillsborough County School students will notice a huge change in the “Grab-and-Go” meal program as of Wednesday. District staff were forced to implement a tracking system to keep predatory parents from cheating the program. They stole food from their neighbor’s children so they could sell it online for a profit.
Students go away hungry due to ‘undesirable behavior’
Workers had to refuse aid to occupants of more than 40 vehicles, attempting to add to their hoards by picking up meal packages. The scoundrels already had supplies of school food in their cars. Later the district found out that parents had been selling the meals meant only for local students online. That’s when officials became totally outraged.
“It’s a shame that a few of our community members would go to multiple sites, take food away from children and seek to build their financial portfolio on children who will not have food today.” district Superintendent Addison Davis scolds. Some of them were grabbing from one location and then going to another to do it again.
Several of the meal pick up sites fell short on food last week. Fifty seven carloads of participants were sent home hungry instead of getting the entire week’s worth of food they were expecting on Wednesday. All because of the “undesired behavior” of a few individuals who couldn’t resist taking personal advantage of the crisis.
Officials planned carefully
District officials had to do some careful planning to properly feed their students through the time schools are closed from the coronavirus pandemic. Many families depend heavily on the supplements to keep their kids properly fed. “That’s why these actions are so upsetting,” Davis explains. Hillsborough cooked up 920,000 meals just for distribution on Wednesday.
When they started looking at the numbers to track how they were doing they noticed the figures for the previous two weeks weren’t adding up. “What I’m most upset about is, you know it’s a shame that we found out that some of our constituents were coming through the lines and visiting multiple schools and taking away food for children in need. That just can’t happen.”
According to the administrator, the monsters are simply “doing this to hurt children,” which “goes against their single goal to protect them.” The students must come first. As adults, Davis argues, “no matter how bad our situations may be, we should always seek to protect every learner within our organization every single day.”
Confused and overwhelmed parents
Davis can appreciate that folks are confused by all the overwhelming changes but that’s no excuse for rogue criminal behavior. Most, he says, are in “uncharted waters” but he expects better manners from members of the community. “We’re in the business to make certain,” Davis asserts, we build “the lives of every one of our learners so that they can be successful.”
The Hillsborough County public school system set up 147 “meal distribution sites” for pick-ups and they also send 150 buses around to “distribution touch-points across 300 different routes.” They call them “snack stops.” Superintendent Davis promises, “we want to make sure that children actually get the nutrition they need to be successful during the e-learning process.” They may not be in school, but they’re still students.
Thanks to the district’s operations and the IT department, Davis declares, “we stand ready with new organizational controls.” To curb the abuse, parents will be required to provide “their child’s name and school ID number in order to pickup food” so they can’t keep making the rounds. Anyone picking up food for “a child who is not school age or outside of the district” has to give them the relevant names and birth dates.
The new tracking program will take a little bit of time to get off the ground so the district is asking families for patience while the measures are implemented. One of the best ways that parents can help is to have all their information readily available, printed in large letters on a sheet of paper that can be held up for easy reading by the staff.