(Aurora, IL) – The COVID-19 pandemic onslaught initially disrupted Aurora-based ’s special education students’ access both to their class room-based instruction and their school-based nutrition, but the school pivoted in the pandemic’s opening days and created their own Meals-on-School Bus Wheels program to feed their low-income, home-bound kids, earning praise from parents.
“After the coronavirus outbreak shuttered schools last spring, we immediately mobilized our staff, kitchens, and bus fleet to deliver meals to our 1700 special ed students enrolled in home-based, remote learning, and have been able to continue the program in the new school year,” said MENTA, Inc. president Dr. Beth Conran who operates C.O.R.E. Academy. “Assuring that our low-income students are nutritiously fed must occur before a single book is opened or a computer turned on because hungry children can’t learn.”
C.O.R.E. Academy’s Meals-on-School Bus Wheels program, which is voluntary and whose delivery cost is reimbursable through the U.S. Department of Agriculture, has been welcomed warmly by parents.
“I am very pleased and grateful for the meal deliveries. I am a working mom, my mind rested easier knowing this was there for them while I was away” said Cassandra Harrison from Plainfield school district 202. “It was the best thing, and I appreciate Menta including her twin on the meals.”
Harrison’s comments were echoed by C.O.R.E. Academy parent Maria DeLourdes-Lozano who lives in District 131 East Aurora. “The meal deliveries are wonderful! I appreciate the work the staff at CORE Academy are doing for her child” said Ms DeLordes-Lozano. “I’m so thankful.”
Prices for grocery store-bought food jumped 2.6% in April 2020 over March, reported the Labor Department in June, the largest monthly increase since 1974.
“Requiring parents to obtain the meals at remote sites daily, such as at schools or at neighborhood drop off locations, is an unnecessary hardship for these families,” said Conran. “At C.O.R.E. Academy and throughout our other Menta schools, there was no debate. We have buses. We’re going to maintain our Meals-on-School Bus Wheels program as long as COVID-19 keeps our kids out of the classroom.”
Menta, which operates 16 other Illinois special ed schools providing instruction to more than 3,000 students, has also implemented its Meals-on-School Bus Wheels program at the following locations: Oak Park (2 schools), Aurora, North Aurora, Waukegan, Machesney Park, Country Club Hills, Chicago (3 schools), Hillside, Nokomis, Belleville, Taylorville (2 schools).