Hundreds of cars idled under a grey sky with trunks ajar on Saturday as Nutrition Services worked to load them full of bags, heavy with holiday turkeys, groceries, and other household supplies.
Jessie Eagle was among those in line. She spent hours snaking through the parking lot, using the time to knit a scarf — a handmade holiday present — out of forest green yarn.
The mom of three said she was laid off earlier this year due to the pandemic, so she came to HISD’s Neighborhood Supersite at the Hattie Mae White Educational Support Center on Saturday for help.
“We heard they were giving out holiday meals, and this really helps take off some of that financial burden,” Eagle said. “It’s a big relief, and we are so grateful.”
Neighborhood Supersites —designed to provide standing times and locations where the community can pick up student meals, groceries, and other household supplies— occur every Wednesday and Saturday.
More than 900 cars were served at Saturday’s event, where workers loaded cars with more than 40,000 pounds of supplies and food, including turkeys and boxes of groceries — filled with items like cornbread and canned vegetables — to help complete a holiday meal.
Similar offerings were available on Wednesday at the Barnett Stadium neighborhood supersite.
On Saturday, Interim Superintendent Dr. Grenita Lathan loaded turkeys into waiting cars. “Oh! This one’s a 13-pounder,” she exclaimed, after lifting an especially large bird into a trunk.
“We are out here to help our families carry the load,” Lathan said. “We have to give back. These are our families. This is our community.”
Throughout the pandemic, Nutrition Services has fed students and their families with weekly supersites, curbside student meal pickups, and distributions at apartment complexes across the city. This month’s holiday turkeys were made possible thanks to an $80,000 grant from No Kid Hungry.
The Texas Hunger Initiative, a longtime HISD partner, was instrumental in coordinating that grant. John Puder, Texas Hunger Initiative Regional Manager, knew this year would be different for many families.
“We’ve always been concerned with feeding the kids,” Puder said. “But now it’s important that we also feed their families.”
As No Kid Hungry Texas Director Stacie Sanchez Hare pointed out, 1 in 3 kids in Texas could face hunger this holiday season.
“Far too many Texans are worried whether they’ll be able to buy gifts and put a holiday meal on the table, or even whether they’ll be able to feed their families at all,” Hare said. “We’re proud to team up with Houston ISD [and] ensure students start the new year nourished and ready to learn.”
Another key partnership with Anita D. Designer Foundation allowed HISD to distribute household supplies. And for the organization’s founder, Anita Daniels, giving back is personal.
“I’ve been a single mom in those lines, needing help. Being able to get that help and keeping your dignity is very important,” Daniels said. “I want to tell them: don’t worry about what’s going on. We’re going to get through this, together.”
For a complete list of distribution times and locations, visit HoustonISD.org/StudentMeals.