On Oct. 28, Palo Verde Unified School District (PVUSD) will transition to a bulk feeding model over the previous three-day weekly disbursement approach to provide area kids with free food amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Previously, PVUSD was disbursing food on Mondays (two days’ worth), Wednesdays (two days’ worth), and Fridays (three days’ worth) which provided individually wrapped items for breakfast, lunch and snack for all youth 18 years of age or younger.

With the bulk feeding model, PVUSD will provide per child boxes with 7 days’ worth of food (for breakfast, lunch, snack and supper) once a week to be disbursed on Wednesdays (with the exception of Tuesday, Nov. 10, to accommodate for the Wednesday, Nov. 11, Veterans Day holiday).

The approximately 16”x12”x10” boxes will include a mix of bulk grocery items and individually wrapped items.

“The 4-week bulk feeding menu is available on the district and school websites and social media sites,” stated PVUSD. “One box per child will be available, and the child must be present or a meal identification card must be presented to receive the meals. (...) Meal distribution will continue to be curbside at Ruth Brown Elementary School and bus routes between 12-3 p.m. Updated bus route schedules can also be found on the district and school websites and social media sites. Please call Nutrition Services at 760-922-4164 ext. 1223 with any questions. PVUSD extends its thanks to the Nutrition Services and Transportation staff for ensuring healthy meals are available to the children in our community.”

On Oct. 20, PVUSD Nutrition Services Supervisor Jesus Gutierrez presented to the Board of Trustees information on the change.

“When it comes to individually wrapped items, the cost is quiet expensive in comparison to bulk,” stated Gutierrez, who noted the district could also see an approximately 80% reduction in food costs/expenses with the bulk feeding model.

Additionally, Gutierrez noted – on top of a fourth meal being included – the bulk feeding model may also provide a better turnout.

“As of now, for the last two months, we’re down around $200,000 in comparison to previous years. So this is something that we’re hoping that could bring the amount of kids coming out – increase that number – while cutting the costs which should truly help out our budget,” said Gutierrez.

The bulk food model may also help streamline the process for PVUSD nutrition services’ staff.

PVUSD Board member Samuel Burton underlined concerns regarding the bulk feeding model and the overall encompassing welfare of kids.

“Some of these children live in places where, once you give them the bulk, there’s no – at school, I get it; at school there’s people to make sure that they eat. (But w)hen they go home, there’s other people there eating their food. And some of these kids, you give them a week – so, you won’t be back for a week. Some of these kids are not going to eat for a week. I just want you to understand the reality of it. School sometimes is their protection for them to get a meal; and I think what you’re saying is great – in a utopian society,” stated Burton to Gutierrez. “But I think it needs a little work to ensure that the children will be able to eat this; that they will be fed. And there’s no way – if you just give them once a week, and you feed them once a week, there’s nothing to ensure that those children will eat.”

Burton further underlined the concern of kids getting to eat the bulk feeding models’ meals away from the safe haven school campus’ can normally provide.

“Unfortunately, in society, people don’t take care of their children; and I’m not saying all parents are like that but there’s some children – how do we assure that the children are going to eat? Are going to get that food? That’s all I’m asking,” stated Burton. “Have someone go around, weigh the kids, to make sure that they’re not losing weight; to make sure they’re not malnourished. Do you understand what I’m saying?”

As noted by PVUSD Board member Sonny Hernandez, there’s no concrete way to guarantee kids are eating the provided meals amid the current COVID-19 climates’ realities and the district’s overall jurisdiction.

“I understand (Burton’s concerns,) because we grew up in situations – but it’s very difficult to put the district in a situation where we have to ‘police.’ That’s not our function. It becomes very difficult for us to even do it,” said Hernandez. “I don’t know; to me, I think (the bulk feeding model) is a good idea because I think most people in this community will feed their children. (...) The chances of somebody not getting fed – it’s there. But I don’t know how we can manage to control (that.) It’s a very difficult situation; the welfare department can’t do it. And that’s what they’re for. It’s just hard to put that on to the district and say, ‘We’ve got to ensure that this is being done.’ It’s very difficult to police. I think (the bulk feeding model)’s a good idea; I think it’s going to work better.

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