Facing hundreds of cars in a line that stretched down the street and around the block, it would have been easy for Nutrition Services staff to feel overwhelmed at their first neighborhood supersite in southeast Houston.
But for a department known for its dedication to keeping families fed and well-nourished, it was all in a day’s work on Wednesday — the launch of weekly community food distributions.
Hosted through a partnership with the Houston Food Bank, the supersites provide a place where Houstonians can go each week to pick up 32-pound family food packages and a week’s worth of student meals.
“We just want to have a good time, feed a lot of families, and help them get through the next week,” HISD Nutrition Services Senior Operations Manager Keith Lewis said as he prepared to distribute food to waiting participants.
The distributions were originally scheduled on Wednesdays at two HISD stadiums but have since been moved to district offices on Saturdays to better accommodate working families.
The next supersites will be held on Saturday, Oct. 24 from 2 to 5 p.m. at the Hattie Mae White Educational Support and Hexser T. Holliday Food Services Support centers. They are now scheduled to be held at these locations on Saturdays from 2 to 5 p.m. through December.
Each week, the department is expected to distribute about 6,000 student meal packages and 6,000 community food packages each week with the help of 250 Nutrition Services employees, 12 HISD police officers, and other district staff and volunteers.
Among those in line at Barnett on Wednesday was Crystal Islas, who arrived an hour before pickup opened at 2 p.m. It was her first time visiting an HISD distribution to secure food for her five children.
“This is a big help to the family,” Islas said. “My boys are constantly eating.”
Community food packages are available to the general public at no cost. Student meals — also available at no cost — are available to children between the ages of 1 and 18 who are engaged in virtual learning. The driver must either have children in the car or show proof of enrollment in any school district such as a student ID or birth certificate.
Student meal packages include breakfast, lunch, fresh produce, and a gallon of milk. On the menu this week was a large pizza. Every week the menu will change, featuring various cafeteria favorites like cheesy fish and spaghetti.
Nutrition Services Chef Trainer Chiquita Coleman encouraged more families to use the free resources that are available to them.
“A lot of people are ashamed. Some don’t want what’s free,” Coleman said. “But I say go out there and get it. There is no shame in needing food to feed your family. This pandemic has affected just about everybody.”
For more information and to learn about other HISD-sponsored distribution sites, visit houstonisd.org/StudentMeals.