Houston ISD abruptly halts food distribution program after suspected COVID-19 case

Houston ISD, HISD
Houston ISD planned to distribute food to families across the Houston area from 39 school sites, including this one at Westbury High School, through at least March 27. (Hunter Marrow/Community Impact Newspaper)

Houston ISD planned to distribute food to families across the Houston area from 39 school sites, including this one at Westbury High School, through at least March 27. (Hunter Marrow/Community Impact Newspaper)

Houston ISD announced it would suspend its free food distribution program as of March 25, cutting short the planned effort by two days, after an individual at one of the sites was potentially exposed to the coronavirus.

That individual is under self-quarantine, and all other volunteers and staff at that site have been notified and instructed to self-quarantine as well, the district said. According to a statement provided to the media, the district is taking a pause to "re-evaluate its process for safely delivering this service to students and families."

“This is a difficult decision to make, but the safety of the community, staff, and volunteers is our top priority,” interim Superintendent Grenita Lathan said in a district news release. “We are proud that in the past two weeks we have provided meals for thousands of Houston families.”

The district directed families needing food assistance to visit one of the 47 sites where the city of Houston is distributing meals for youth or to visit any Houston Food Bank partner site.

The food distribution program was launched after the district announced it was canceling class as of March 13, with five locations and later expanded to almost 40, and was slated to end March 27. The program was also suspended March 23 because of weather concerns.

In a previous interview with Community Impact Newspaper, Lathan said the program had served over 14,000 households over 4,900 pounds of food in its first four days.

"The big success is, we’re reaching people, including HISD families and people who don’t have children in our district and even senior citizens. We’re reaching our community and that means a lot," Lathan said.

Supplies were provided by the Houston Food Bank and was staffed by volunteers from the bank as well as the district.

In the interview, Lathan said that if the food bank could not support the program with food past March 27, the district would use its own supplies to serve students' families exclusively, as it does through its free and reduced-price lunch program, which has been able to offer free breakfast and lunch to every student for three years.
By Matt Dulin
Matt joined Community Impact Newspaper in January 2018 and is the City Editor for Houston's Inner Loop editions.


Mayor Turner and the honor guard.
Houston joins nationwide coronavirus memorial, lights landmarks

The memorial was planned as a component of President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris' inauguration.

Heights Waterworks
Houston Heights Association seeks award nominations for residential, commercial improvements

To be eligible, projects must have been completed between 2018 and 2020.

Ovme opened a new medical spa Jan. 19 at 3021 Kirby Drive, Houston. (Courtesy Ovme)
New in River Oaks: Ovme medical spa, a dance studio, Kelsey-Seybold Clinic

Here is a look at three new businesses that are now open in or are coming soon to the River Oaks area.

Feeding Texas hosted a Jan. 19 webinar to discuss legislative highlights for the 87th Texas Legislature. (Screenshot courtesy Feeding Texas)
Food insecurity in Texas' 87th Legislature: Hunger relief organization Feeding Texas to propose legislation addressing hunger

Hunger relief organization Feeding Texas hosted a webinar Jan. 19 to discuss increasing funding and accessibility for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program in the 87th legislative session.

The Heights Hospital
Heights Hospital staff, patients locked out over unpaid rent

Other medical tenants in the building continue to see patients, however.

COVID-19 vaccines
DATA: Texas has vaccinated about 9% of estimated Phase 1 recipients

Over 1.1 million individuals from the Phase 1 population, which is estimated to include 13.5 million individuals total, have received at least one dose.

Bob Popinski, policy director of Raise Your Hand Texas, shared the organization's top education priorities for the ongoing legislative session. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
‘What does virtual learning and remote learning look like moving forward?': Raise Your Hand Texas policy director talks legislative priorities

Bob Popinski is the director of policy for Raise Your Hand Texas, an Austin-based organization committed to improving public education. He spoke with Community Impact Newspaper in late December about the 87th legislative session, which began Jan. 12.

Houston City Hall aerial view
Houston City Council ethics committee to review speech policies

The discussion comes after Facebook posts by Council Member Greg Travis led to calls for his resignation or censure.

Bayou City Art Festival Downtown is scheduled to return in person in October. (Courtesy Katya Horner/Bayou City Art Festival)
Bayou City Art Festival scheduled for in-person return in October

The Memorial Park version of the festival will be celebrated through alternative virtual and smaller in-person events.

Mayor Sylvester Turner issued a warning to bars and nightclubs across Houston and said he plans to go after any establishment seen disregarding capacity guidelines. (Screenshot via Twitter)
Mayor Sylvester Turner calls out concerts, clubs operating over capacity

Turner also reported 1,964 new cases of COVID-19 along with 17 virus-related deaths.

At a Jan. 15 emergency court hearing, officials came up with a plan to try to reduce the inmate population at the Harris County Jail that centers on hosting more bail reduction hearings. (Courtesy Brian Jackson/Adobe Stock)
With open beds dwindling, officials look for ways to reduce Harris County jail population

The inmate population at the Harris County Jail is rising, and officials are looking for ways to quickly ease the pressure as concerns grow over the ability to quarantine and restrict the spread of the coronavirus.