HISD Community Partnerships, HISD Police Department play key roles in food distribution

Feeding more than 10,000 families five days a week during a pandemic is no easy task. It’s an effort that requires the collaboration of multiple departments across the district to bring it all together.

In just over a month, HISD — working together with the Houston Food Bank — has distributed 2 million pounds of food to more than 60,000 families. That range spans from March 14 through April 18.

“I appreciate the spotlight we’ve received, but it’s not just us,” HISD Nutrition Services Officer Betti Wiggins said, referencing the child nutrition department she leads. “We couldn’t have accomplished this without the help of Community Partnerships and HISD Police.”

HISD Community Relations Director Najah Callander is responsible for managing the district’s partnership with the Houston Food Bank. Callander answers their questions, troubleshoots any issues that arise, and coordinates timelines.

“We decided to do this a little differently than other districts,” Callander said. “Our program is unique in feeding entire households and in being complementary to other food resources. Families can also participate in other programs that offer individual meals.”

HISD Chief of Police Paul Cordova said one or two supervisors and five to 10 officers — depending on the size of the school and traffic flow in the area — are available at each food distribution site to direct car and pedestrian traffic.

“As people get desperate, they may try to cut in line,” Cordova said. “We have to remind them that they have to wait their turn, like everyone else.”

Cordova said some neighborhoods have a tremendous need for this program, especially at this time.

“So many of our community members are hurting financially because they lost their jobs, or have been furloughed, or have reduced hours,” Cordova said. “We’re pleased to be able to participate and be a part of the solution.”

Callander said she is motivated by the rewards of food distribution despite the challenges they face.

“COVID-19 is community spread, so we have to make sure everyone’s safe,” Callander said. “We know hungry kids can’t study or reach their academic potential. I’m proud of how HISD has shown up as a community to address this.”