The Public School System’s Child Nutrition Program is distributing over 10,000 meals daily basis.
According to Dale Robert, PSS Child Nutrition Program director, the Grab & Go Meal Distribution program has raised the number of prepared meals to over 10,000 daily as of last week, and the program still plans to add more since sites continue to run out.
“We did well over 10,000 meals [last Wednesday], almost 10,500, and we have plans to deliver 11,275,” Roberts said.
Since the meal distribution started on April 16, the number of distributed meals has shot up due to many government employees being furloughed, Roberts said.
“When we restarted again in April 16, we prepared 10,000 meals and we delivered 9,100. Since folks in the government, across the board, have been furloughed, the numbers have really jumped. Sites where we hadn’t run out before we actually ran out. We’ve increased the numbers each day since,” Roberts said.
However, Roberts also reported that he has noticed some members of the community taking advantage of the program.
“The sites have been generally running smoothly but I travel site to site and I’ve seen lots of families that are cheating and going to multiple sites. I fear that there are abuses happening. I’ve got folks coming to the sites asking for nine, 10, 11 meals at a time. Some are able to produce documentation for their kids and some are not and, of course, we’re not in the business of turning people away if we don’t have a good reason and the only reason is if they don’t have documentation,” he said.
If the program continues to be abused, Roberts fears that the number of meals that will be prepared and distributed daily will have to be capped. “We are already serving more lunches each day than we have at these schools on regular school days and we can increase and we can keep increasing because we have kids in the community that are not students like 3-year-olds and other children that wouldn’t normally show up on a school roster. We’re going to keep feeding but we are going to approach a number at some point where it’s going to go above the number of students that we can account for on a regular basis so I’m going to have to put a cap at some point,” he said.
Fortunately, according to Roberts, the CNMI hasn’t reached that point yet. “We’re not there yet, and I hope we don’t get to that point, I keep expecting that we’ll level off but each day we seem to be adding a little bit more. It’s not a funding issue but it’s a program issue and I just want to leave it at that.”
When the meal distribution began back in March, the CNP was preparing about 8,000 breakfast, lunch, and snacks and served just over 6,400 children daily until the program was temporarily put on hold.