When the COVID-19 pandemic shuttered schools statewide at the end of March, low-income families lost a lot more than face-to-face instruction from teachers. Gone were free weekday meals for their children.
Finding a way to feed kids and teens who wouldn’t otherwise get those meals became the overnight mission of Emily Chatelain, a Baton Rouge-based national consultant for school lunch programs and founder of the nonprofit Three O’Clock Project. The organization has provided free after-school and summer meals at no cost to school-aged children in the Capital City since 2017.
“We knew the school closures were going to be a big deal for at-risk kids, so we positioned ourselves to jump in and help, even before the [closure] announcement was made,” Chatelain says. “We started mobilizing to see what we could do to become a feeding site.”
East Baton Rouge Parish alone serves about 50,000 meals a day in a given year through the National School Lunch Program.
After schools shut down in late March, seven school cafeterias initially kept serving grab-and-go meals. That was not enough to meet the local demand.
Moreover, some of those cafeterias had to cease operations when a few employees became ill with the coronavirus. Chatelain’s Three O’Clock Project filled gaps not just in East Baton Rouge Parish but also in other districts across the region.
Read on for the full story, which ran in the July 2020 issue of 225.