2 - 3oClockProject_0064.jpg

Workers prepare meals for children throughout much of South Louisiana at the Three O'Clock Project's kitchen at Celtic Studios in Baton Rouge.

The East Baton Rouge Parish school system has announced that school meals will continue over the Thanksgiving break with special home deliveries available to all of its 40,000-plus students.

Families, though, have only until 5 p.m. Wednesday to sign up for the special holiday home delivery offer. They can do so by heading to bit.ly/ebrmealdelivery and filling out a short sign-up form.

Baton Rouge-based TDP Group, which does business as Focus Foods, will prepare the meals and deliver them. For the past three weeks, Focus Foods has been delivering meals to Baton Rouge schoolchildren who have opted to learn strictly virtually from home. Currently about 1,500 children are receiving these meals.

The Thanksgiving meal delivery has the potential to be much larger in scope. While only about 20 families had signed up as of late Tuesday morning, school officials are expecting that to grow as word gets out; Focus Foods has the capacity to serve about 15,000 meals.

Nadine Mann, director of Child Nutrition program, said that families who sign up will receive boxes of frozen dinners along with other food items that work out to five lunches, breakfasts and suppers, as well as snacks.

Focus Foods will deliver the food boxes between Saturday and Wednesday of next week, the day before Thanksgiving. They can only be provided within East Baton Rouge Parish, excluding Baker, Central and Zachary.

“Meals cannot be left on a doorstep; therefore, someone must be present to sign for the food boxes,” Mann said.

All children in the East Baton Rouge Parish school system -- there are currently nearly 41,000 -- can receive free breakfasts and lunch in school thanks to a special program through the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The holiday meal boxes, however, are available to even more families since the program is part of USDA’s Summer Food Service Program. So all schoolchildren who would be eligible for summer meals, including some children who attend other schools in Baton Rouge, can take part.

“I am not restricting it to just EBR schools,” Mann said.

Also, families with multiple children in their household can earn separate Thanksgiving meal boxes for all of their children as long as they are under the age of 18. That includes the younger siblings of Baton Rouge public schoolchildren who have yet to enroll in school, Mann said.

Mann said if it goes well during Thanksgiving, she will look into doing home meal deliveries again for the Christmas holidays.


Email Charles Lussier at clussier@theadvocate.com and follow him on Twitter, @Charles_Lussier.