D.C. Public Schools Open Doors During Blizzard, Not to Hold Classes but to Feed Hungry Kids

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Due to the strong snow storm that has been ravaging Washington, a lot of people are left stranded. Those who have homes stay indoors and keep themselves safe, but unfortunately, there are those who do not have a place to stay, let alone food to fill their hungry stomachs.

So public schools in D.C. decided to open their doors to offer free meals to these families, especially the kids.

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District of Columbia Public Schools offered free emergency breakfast and lunches to hungry families affected by the blizzard, using 10 schools across the capital as venues. Among those who got the chance to eat for free is 6-year-old Gonnie Jordan (pictured above), along with his family. They received it at Bell Multicultural High School in Washington.

The DC Public Schools typically open food centers in schools only during summer to aid children who are dependent on public institutions for federally subsidized meals. But the wrath caused by the blizzard drove the schools to make certain exceptions.

Although school teachers and officials in nearby school districts were concerned about how the season would affect the students who come from low-income working families, none of them had the initiative to take similar steps as the DCPS.

According to 32-year-old Rahnell Jordan, the food centers “comes in handy.” Rahnell’s famiy is homeless and they are temporarily placed in a Silver Spring Hotel outfitted with a microwave and a small refrigerator but without an oven or stove. He and his family have been eating mostly noodles from the nearby 7-Eleven convenience store.

Rahnell found out about the DCPS feeding centers on television. He then took his children to Columbia Heights with the help of his wife, Crystal. Typically, his children would eat free breakfast and lunch at an elementary school near them, but due to the storm, it was closed. Both parents are working; Crystal works in the kitchen at the National Zoo while Rahnell works in the kitchen at an elementary school in Prince George’s County.

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Chief operating officer at DCPS, Nathaniel Beers, said that there is an estimated 75 to 80 percent of students who qualify for discounted and free meals. As city and school officials planned to temporarily close schools because of the storm, they realized that a lot of students would be unable to have school-provided meals for a total of four days.

That’s why Beers, along with other members of the DCPS, made a plan to open ten schools in that volunteer staff and students could easily reach. They made sure these schools are located around neighborhoods high needs.
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According to Beers, the total number of breakfasts and lunches served reached an estimated 502. Anacostia High School served 168 meals, Brookland Middle School gave 20 meals, and at Columbia Heights Education Campus, 42 lunches and three breakfasts were served to several homeless people and about a dozen students.

School employees also received help, along with a man from Anacostia who was carrying a shovel and was looking for spontaneous plowing jobs in Columbia Heights. There were also volunteers from the neighborhood who helped serve the meals.

The Jordan family was able to take boxes of extra chicken nuggets back to their hotel after spending an hour or so at the food center.

But according to Maria Tukeva, news about the food centers weren’t relayed properly. She said, “I think word of mouth would definitely get more people in here.” Beers said that they are learning from the experience and are planning to discuss ways to improve the system.

Some of the improvements they’re aiming for are effective ways to deliver meals, providing students with bags of food to take home in preparation for the bad weather, and better public communication. He says, “We need to think about whether or not this is the best way to get food out during this kind of storm or whether there is a better mechanism.”

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