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.


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