A steady wind churned gray clouds across the sky as dozens of HISD families lined up Thursday outside the Chestnut Hill Apartments office, waiting to pick up student meals for their children.
HISD’s Nutrition Services regularly delivers to this Southwest Houston apartment complex — and 24 others — to provide meals to virtual learning students whose families can’t get to curbside distributions.
For sixth-grader Natalia Guerrero, standing in line with her stay-at-home mom is a necessary weekly task. The two of them walk from the back of the complex to pick up meals for all five students in the family, keeping food insecurity at bay.
“Picking up the meals here helps my mom so she is not exposed to the virus at a store, and she doesn’t spend as much on food,” Guerrero said. “But I am ready to go back to school.”
The Nutrition Services Houston Eats catering team started distributing student meals at three apartment complexes last July. As the pandemic hit and requests for catering decreased, the Houston Eats team quickly pivoted, placing their focus and their resources on those who needed it most — students.
“Our goal is to reach out to more of those students who we know are not getting a nutritious meal each day,” said Nutrition Services Executive Chef David Husbands, who oversees Houston Eats.
During Thursday’s distribution, Nutrition Services teamed up with the Houston Health Department to provide student meals alongside personal protective equipment, health information, and COVID-19 vaccine resources.
Some areas of the city still have high COVID positivity rates, which is why it’s important to engage areas hit hard by the pandemic, Houston Health Department Community Relations Specialist LaShon Cooper said.
“It’s very important to have partnerships like we do with HISD,” Cooper said, “and slow the spread of the virus to put Houston back on the road to recovery.”
Since the pandemic hit, Nutrition Services teams have worked six days a week providing more than 30 million pounds of food to Houston area students and their families. Apartment complex distributions play a key role in that effort.
“Feeding people in need is the most important thing I have ever done,” said Nutrition Services Food Service Attendant José Guzmán, who has worked with the program since its inception and was tasked Thursday with delivering the meals to Chestnut Hill.
As the need continues, the catering team said they’re is committed to expanding the program until they reach every area in need.
“Students thrive when their families thrive,” Nutrition Services Officer Betti Wiggins said. “Feeding students and their families, when we have food boxes from our Houston Food Bank partners, directly supports the education of our students.”