TEXARKANA — Hope and help are available to rid children's hunger.
School classrooms are empty but local school districts are offering free meals to fill stomachs.
In some cases, the delivery method of the meals are taking some new turns — literally.
On Tuesday, seven Bowie County school buses delivered meals to 21 residential locations in the Liberty-Eylau Independent School District. It was the first day L-E schools were closed and the first day delivery meals by school bus. This delivery method will continue Mondays through Fridays until school is back in session.
At one of the first stops, Sunset Apartments on Allen Street, about 40 bagged meals were handed out through an emergency exit door by Matt Fry, the district's communications director.
Fry greeted children and parents with a cheerful, "good morning," which was returned by smiles and thank yous.
Onboard the bus was a driver and a member of the district's food services team.
"I know you," a small girl gleefully squealed as she pointed to the woman standing on the bus. "You're the cafeteria lady."
Parents expressed how much reassurance the district's meals delivered by school bus means in uncertain times.
"I mean it is a lot of help to me. People are not able to go to work right now with school being out for two weeks," said parent Janet Hock, who has three children ages 5, 6 and 7.
Parent Leroy Davis agreed.
"That's good help. It is about the best thing going right now, especially if you got two or more kids or no car to go get food," he said as he stood with 5-year-old Kyrie Davis.
Tuesday's meals consisted of apple pie strudel, either a hot ham and cheese or Philly cheese sandwich, a cereal bar, milk and juice.
By the end of Tuesday's meal deliveries via school buses, 267 children were served, Fry said. He anticipates that number will increase in the coming days based on interest and feedback received.
Across the state line, Texarkana, Arkansas, School District has two campus lunchrooms open twice daily to serve breakfast and lunch to anyone 18 and under.
College Hill Elementary at 200 Artesian St. and North Heights Junior High at 2118 E. 35th Street, were in their second day of serving free meals to children 18 and under.
Breakfast is from 7 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. and lunch is served from 11:30 a.m. until 1 p.m.
TASD's Grab and Go breakfast and lunch program has slow participation right now.
"However, we are encouraging students and their families to participate," said Dr. Genia Bullock, TASD public relations director.
At the North Heights campus, cashier clerk Jasmine Crittenden and Supervisor Janice Koontz said they had prepared less food as a result. The lunch meal consisted of tortillas topped with shredded meat, cheese, carrots and applesauce.
On a typical school day, the North Heights cafeteria would be serving about 450 to 500 students.
Bullock said TASD is re-evaluating its distribution program and having conversations with several agencies and churches to help fill the gaps.
Both Bullock and Fry said the current feeding situations are modeled after the districts' Seamless Summer feeding programs.
FOOD SERVICE BUS ROUTES
Below are the food service bus routes for Liberty-Eylau. A meal will be offered from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Monday through Friday at Liberty-Eylau Middle School with both breakfast and lunch items available. Food may be picked up at any of these locations:
Stop 1 - Sunset Apartments
Stop 2 - St. Paul Baptist Church
Stop 3 - Hamilton Memorial Idaho Street
Stop 1 - Lakeridge Apartments
Stop 2 - Sunset Circle and Elmwood Drive
Stop 3 - Liberty-Eylau Baptist
Stop 1 - Blankenship - TXK Mobile Home Park
Stop 2 - Woodland Circle and Fountainview
Stop 3 - Walker Road Duplexes
Stop 1 - Creek Bend/Glen Acres Park Bus Stop
Stop 2 - Singing Pines Urban & Watlington
Stop 3 - Alpine Mobile Home Park
Stop 1 - Creekside Village Mobile Home Park
Stop 2 - SOS Parking Lot
Stop 3 - Rehkopf Addition Geneva and Roosevelt
Stop 1 - Sunset Ridge Mobile Home Park
Stop 2 - Presley and Bottoms Road
Stop 3 - Quail Ridge
Stop 1 - George Thomas at Jesse Hughes
Stop 2 - Fricks at Country Paradise
Stops 3 - Springridge and Krobot Normal Bus Stops
The Texarkana, Arkansas, School District will provide a grab-and-go breakfast and lunch that will be available through March 30 at two of its campuses during the closure:
College Hill Elementary, 200 Artesian
North Heights Junior High School, 2118 E. 35th Street
TASD's Facebook Page shows breakfast is from 7 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. and lunch will be served from 11:30 a.m. until 1 p.m.