My name is Irene. I’ve been working at Sul Ross Middle School in San Antonio as the community school coordinator for the last 24 years. This school, the students – this is where my heart and soul are at. If you told me today, ‘Irene, you could get a job at any school you want,’ I would say ‘no, I want to be at Sul Ross.’
That’s why it’s been so difficult to see this community, which was already very much in need, get hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s heartbreaking knowing that our kids who were relying on free and reduced-price meals in the classroom have lost those options with our school shutdown.
The kids that learn here come with issues that you’d never dream of. And for many of them, the biggest challenge is getting food. So, when the pandemic spread, that need got even more acute. Many of the parents who work in local restaurants were let go or had their hours cut significantly as businesses shut down. Suddenly, families in our community were wondering how they were going to feed their kids two more meals a day, while also reeling from a big cut to their income. And in many cases, that income was already paycheck-to-paycheck.
But the school and the San Antonio Food Bank – a member of the Feeding America network – weren’t about to let children and their families go hungry during this crisis. We are a part of this community. We love it too much to see this virus take it down. So we sprang into action.
Our middle school has partnered with the food bank to distribute food most Saturdays for the past 20 years. As soon as the pandemic began, we switched to a “drive-thru” distribution. On the first day, there were lines and lines of cars. So many, in fact, that we ran out of food. The need had grown tremendously. Since then, we’ve been getting even more food from the food bank.
We’ve also started distributing free lunches and breakfasts to kids outside the school every day, so that even when school is closed, kids are still able to eat the meals they’d normally be getting.
Parents are thrilled and so relieved, because while many families are still working, having the extra food removes that added stress so they can focus on supporting their families in other ways.
But the bottom line is this: pandemic or not, kids shouldn’t have to worry about going to bed hungry. They shouldn’t have to worry about where their next meal is going to come from. We’ve switched to e-learning, but if kids’ stomachs are growling, they’re not going to be thinking about homework, or which projects are due.
This is a scary time for all of us. But, through everything, I see courage. I see strength. I see togetherness. And that’s most important – because together, with the food bank, hunger is one obstacle we can remove from our children, from our families during this pandemic. And in the face of this hardship, that gives me incredible hope.