MTSU donates, delivers bottled milk for Hobgood Elementary's CHOW Bus

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MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee, front, helps unload donated bottles of MTSU milk Wednesday, April 1, with MTSU Creamery manager Steve Dixon, right, and student worker Jacob Wade outside Hobgood Elementary on Baird Lane. The milk helped shore up a temporary shortage for the Murfreesboro City Schools’ CHOW bus mobile meals program. (MTSU photo by J. Intintoli)
MTSU Creamery manager Steve Dixon, front, and student worker Jacob Wade unload donated bottles of MTSU milk Wednesday, April 1, outside Hobgood Elementary on Baird Lane for the Murfreesboro City Schools’ CHOW bus mobile meals program. At left are MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee and Murfreesboro City Schools Director Linda Gilbert. (MTSU photo by J. Intintoli)
MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee, center, and Murfreesboro City Schools Director Linda Gilbert, at left, maintain proper social distancing Wednesday, April 1, outside Hobgood Elementary on Baird Lane. The MTSU Creamery delivered 450 bottles of milk to Hobgood to shore up a shortage for the school district’s CHOW bus mobile meals program. (MTSU photo by J. Intintoli)

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. -- MTSU Creamery made a much-needed special delivery of its famous chocolate milk Wednesday morning to keep the Murfreesboro City Schools' CHOW Bus properly stocked to serve children outside Hobgood Elementary School on Baird Lane.

CHOW, which stands for Combatting Hunger on Wheels, was launched by Murfreesboro City Schools several years ago to provide meals for students throughout the city during the summer. With schools closed because of the coronavirus pandemic, the converted retired school buses are now serving bagged breakfast and lunch to-go meals to any students under 18 at multiple schools and apartment complexes around the city.

The Hobgood Elementary stop, which serves around 175 meals each day, was running low on milk for the meals and wasn't expecting another delivery until Friday. When MTSU learned of the shortage, the university dispatched the MTSU Creamery's refrigerated delivery truck, which dropped off 450 bottles of milk -- 425 chocolate, 25 white -- at the school mid-morning Wednesday just in time for the CHOW bus to serve the lunchtime visitors.

MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee joined Creamery staff -- all equipped with rubber gloves and maintaining proper social distancing -- in delivering the donated bottles of milk and chatted with an appreciative Murfreesboro City Schools Director Linda Gilbert, who stopped by as well.

"When we heard that they were in need of milk in transition of getting a new batch of milk to serve their students ... we were able to step in and provide this support for our citizens in partnership with Murfreesboro City Schools," McPhee said. "In every crisis there are opportunities and a silver lining, and this is a silver lining in such a challenging and difficult time."

Gilbert, an MTSU alumna, said the meals program provides a "critical" service to many children who may not otherwise have the means to consistently get healthy, nutritious meals while the schools remain closed because of the coronavirus outbreak.

"I love MTSU. They are our true partner," Gilbert said. "They've always collaborated with us ... instruction, professional development, food obviously. It's great having that kind of relationship when you have a major university that is here and is willing to help."

The CHOW bus program is serving approximately 1,000 meals a day throughout the city and "is growing," said Lisa Trail, City Schools' director of communications, noting that the program will add four more sites to the stops next week.

Despite the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, work must continue at the MTSU School of Agriculture's Farm Laboratory in Lascassas, where hundreds of acres are actually farmed and the 50 or so cows still need to be milked twice a day.

A small group of student workers assist Matthew Wade, director of the MTSU Farm Laboratories, and his team in milking cows and processing milk under strict safety and health guidelines. Milk is delivered by tanker truck to MTSU Creamery, located on campus in the Stark Agricultural Building. The bottled milk is delivered to several area businesses.

The farm, dairy and School of Agriculture are part of MTSU's College of Basic and Applied Sciences.

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