The Public School System Child Nutrition Program, with help from the Office of the Governor COVID-19 Task Force, will continue to provide meals to students until classes resume but, instead of serving the food in school cafeterias, it will be handed out in a type of “grab-and-go” setup.
In an interview with Education Commissioner Dr. Alfred Ada, he said that PSS has decided to continue the Child Nutrition Program while classes are suspended beginning March 25.
“We do have some reluctant workers from the vendors and the school site, but we were able to recruit 13 people who will undergo certification training until Wednesday for the food handlers,” he said.
Ada said the test run for the meal distribution will be on Tuesday and the actual distribution will begin on Wednesday to get the logistics in place.
“We’re expecting a lot of hiccups because this is our first time. We will have walkers separated from the drive-through. We’re going to do a dry run on Tuesday to make sure logistics are taken care of,” he said.
The meal distribution sites will be Gregorio T. Camacho Elementary School, Tanapag Middle School, Garapan Elementary School, Oleai Elementary School, Dandan Middle School, Marianas High School, Francisco M. Sablan Middle School, Saipan Southern High School, ChaCha Ocean View Middle School, Chalan Kanoa Head Start, Tinian Elementary School, Sinapalo Elementary School, and Dr. Rita H. Inos Jr./Sr. High School.
Meal distribution will be from 9:30am to 10:30am.
According to Board of Education chair Janice Tenorio, PSS will provide three sets of meal— breakfast, lunch, and snack—in one bag.
No IDs will be needed for drive-through and walk in lines and it will be on a “trust” basis, meaning PSS is trusting that parents and guardians are really picking up the meals for their children.
“This is a federally funded program. We’re looking at and distributing 8,000 meals or until supplies last. We have to just trust the parents and guardians that they are getting these meals for their children, 0-18 years old or attending high school,” she said.
However, because the CNMI is unaware of whether it will have a COVID-19 case or not, the meal distribution will only be until supplies last or if the administration orders a full shutdown.
Tenorio added that the meal distribution will not only feed the CNMI’s children, it will keep the economy circulating with the vendors involved.
Gov. Ralph DLG Torres said that, despite the many challenges that comes with distributing meals to the students in light of the COVID-19 threat, he along with the task force is adamant about ensuring that students are fed in this time of crisis.
“With the administration working with the chair and the commissioner, it was our concern on how do we give students food, how do we disseminate that? The challenge that we have now is trying to find manpower to distribute [the food], so we’ve been working with our task force and again, with health issues, it’s different declaration than we’ve had with Yutu but here, we are calling our government partners to put everything aside and make sure we have the manpower to feed our children and we’ll do what it takes to provide that manpower,” he said.