Local school districts help fight food scarcity

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Eriana Ruiz

Illustration by Eriana Ruiz As tens of millions of people file for jobless claims during the COVID-19 pandemic, some families are having to find new ways to bring food home.

Mykel Hilliard, Managing Editor

Local school districts and their affiliates have set up food programs to help fight food scarcity amongst students and their families. Carrollton-Farmers Branch Independent School District’s Grab-and-Go meals program is offering parents and students the opportunity to pick up five breakfast and lunch meals every Tuesday. So far the district has delivered over 50,000 meals.
To qualify for the program parents are urged to bring their children with them or bring documentation such as student report cards, student ID, attendance records, birth certificates or documents showing the student attends a school within the district.
Additionally, Be A Champion Inc., a student enrichment program, is helping CFBISD students by offering additional meals for students. Meals can be picked up at six locations in the district from 3-5 p.m. Monday-Friday.
Sabrina Tellez, the director of training and development for Be A Champion Inc., said it is a unique time for families. “For these families, feeding their children three meals a day adds an additional level of stress to an already stressful situation,” she said.
Since mid-March over 30 million Americans have filed for jobless claims, according to CNN. As people lose their jobs and benefits, some families are having to use alternative resources to bring food home.
As a result, people are beginning to flood local food banks and pantries that are not built to serve during a crisis such as COVID-19, according to Good Morning America. Feeding America, the largest network of food banks in the U.S., reported an increase in demand amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The company estimates it will need to serve 17.1 million more people than it is used to, Claire Babineaux-Fontenot, CEO of Feeding America, said, according to Good Morning America. In normal circumstances, Feeding America provides food for 37-40 million people. “I’ve never witnessed a system being more strained,” Babineaux-Fontenot said.
In an email to The Courier, Nancy Cline, president of CFBISD’s board of trustees, said she is proud of the work that the district’s nutrition services department and leadership team has done to provide food for students. “During this unprecedented time of schools being closed unexpectedly, CFB staff members have worked to adjust, modify and seek opportunities to ensure that our students do not go hungry,” she said.
Cline said the district tried different models to make meals accessible to families. They originally distributed meals at the district’s high schools, but Cline said the program was later expanded to include elementary and middle schools.
In association with School Leadership and Food & Child Nutrition Services, the Dallas Independent School District launched its COVID-19 Meal Service. According to the district’s website, to qualify for the meal service students must be 18-19 years old, if the student turns 19 during the current school year. Students with disabilities qualify for meals regardless of age. The meals include seven breakfasts, seven lunches and one supper. Meals are distributed curbside 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at participating schools.
Yolanda Fisher, cafeteria manager at DISD’s T.W. Browne Middle School who participates in the COVID-19 Meal Service, told Time magazine she continues to work so families do not go hungry. She said: “I’m still going to work because we’re still feeding the kids – it’s not just kids that attend my school, it’s any child that stays in Dallas and they need a meal. And if a family is really in need, we give the adults a meal as well.”
Dan Micciche, DISD Board of Trustees first vice president, said he is very proud and impressed with the district’s meal distribution program. “Our staff has really stepped up to provide our students with much-needed meals,” he said. “They are, as Time magazine called them, “‘heroes on the front lines.’”
Dallas Area Rapid Transit also partnered with DISD to deliver 4,500 meals every week to three distribution centers: Janie C. Turner Recreation Center, Thurgood Marshall Recreation Center and Highland Hills Branch Library.