HISD food distributions a team effort to feed families in need

When Brenda Williams learned that the Houston Independent School District was closing due to COVID-19, her first thought was whether she would have enough food to feed her three grandchildren without school meals.

Williams previously received help from a local church, but that option became unavailable due to the pandemic. Now, Williams visits the district’s food distribution sites. The process, she said, is easy. She pulls up, pops her trunk, and the groceries are placed right inside.

“I appreciate what they’re doing, extending their hand to help,” Williams said, noting that staff are always helpful and the line moves fast. “It comes in handy during these times of need. Food on the table is better than no food on the table.”

HISD food distribution sites are operated by HISD Nutrition Services in partnership with the Houston Food Bank. Five sites are open daily throughout out the district, and each site can distribute 500 bags, providing families with about 30 pounds of food and 25 individual meals.

Since March 14 through April 10, the district has distributed 1.4 million pounds of food to more than 47,000 families.

HISD Nutrition Services Officer Betti Wiggins said the program is necessary because a large percentage of HISD households are food insecure — a situation that is especially critical at this time.

“A lot of people have been laid off,” Wiggins said. “While we normally focus on feeding students, now we’re addressing hungry households.”

Williams’ household includes herself and her husband, as well as her three grandchildren — a kindergartner and two pre-kindergartners. One bag of food can last her family for the week, she said, noting that she plans meals that stretch the food she receives. For example, she said, she used the seasoned fajita meat she received to make three different meals — spaghetti, tacos, and salad.

Her grandchildren are partial to the apple juice and milk, she noted.

Nutrition Services works closely with HISD Community Partnerships and the HISD Police Department to carry out the program. Wiggins credited the two district partners, as well as the Houston Food Bank, for helping ensure thousands of families receive the food they need.

“Everyone’s stepping up. We’re only as good as our team,” Wiggins said. “It brings tears to my eyes to see how well the team coordinates the essential work of feeding people. It leaves me just speechless how hard we work to support our community.”