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School districts temporarily suspend meal programs

NATCHEZ — Adams County and Concordia Parish Schools temporarily suspended their grab-and-go meal programs out of concern for the health and safety of their students and employees, officials said.

Natchez-Adams School District Deputy Superintendent Zandra McDonald said the district stopped providing lunches for two weeks starting Monday this week “out of an abundance of caution” and would consider ways of continuing the service after, if the school closure continues.

Mississippi public schools are currently closed at least through April 17 and the district is waiting on guidance from Gov. Tate Reeves, who said he will updates schools by Tuesday in a press conference regarding when classes may resume, McDonald said.

“We suspended our food services on Monday out of an abundance of caution. Over the last two weeks our state has seen an increase in COVID-19 cases, and we didn’t want to risk exposing our students and staff members.”

The Concordia Parish School District suspended their grab-and-go lunch program on March 30 because several cafeteria workers were concerned about coming to work and risking exposure to the virus, said Whest Shirley superintendent.

“We didn’t feel that we needed to put our workers at risk at this time and, as a precaution, we suspended it,” Shirley said. “We are planning to begin serving food again next week at one site in Ferriday, and we are hoping to add two more locations.”

The school district contracted with The Healthy School Food Collaborative to continue providing grab-and-go meals through the remainder of the school closure, Shirley said, adding the district also plans to continue its usual summer feeding program that is ordinarily hosted each year in June.

As of Thursday, Louisiana public schools are closed at least through April 30, Shirley said.

Both Concordia Parish and Adams County School officials said students were provided with distance learning materials both online and in printed packets for students who don’t have internet access at home. However, the work is not mandatory because of the equity issue for students who have internet access at home and students who do not.

McDonald said parents and students should hold on to any completed coursework so they may turn it in once schools reopen.

All high school students are still receiving credit for their coursework that is completed at home, McDonald said.