Nonprofits, school district look to ease coronavirus closures with free meals

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Philadelphia-area churches and community groups are hoping to ease the burden on families who are hunkered down because of the coronavirus outbreak by providing access to free meals. 

“We raised $1,800 in two days,” said Daniel Jackson, senior pastor of New Kingdom Baptist Church at Mascher and Cumberland streets. For the next two weeks, the church is opening up its basement to provide free hot breakfasts from 8:30 to 10 a.m., and lunch from noon to 1:30 p.m., both for children and families.

“I came here to give back with my church family,” she said.

Monday was slow, but they expect foot traffic to pick up over the next two weeks.

“We held a big food drive,” she said. “We also went to the market where we bought a lot of food.”

Anton Moore, who runs the South Philly nonprofit Unity in the Community, said they delivered groceries to 80 families, seniors and single parents over the past couple of days.

“We had some meats, the cereals, some snacks for the kids,” he said.

They also planned to take families shopping, but supplies are lacking.

“It’s hard to find places with things actually in it,” he admitted.

Both Moore and Gray-Taylor said they plan to step up efforts over the next week to help more families in need.

Philadelphia schools

The School District of Philadelphia made grab-and-go breakfasts and lunches available at 30 locations for children during the two-week coronavirus closure. 

Superintendent William Hite and Mayor Jim Kenney visited Tilden Middle School on Monday, where some children picked up bags of fruit, yogurt, crackers and peanut butter. 

However, dozens of brown bags went unclaimed. Hite said the district will adjust its response on the fly.

“This is the first day,” he noted. “We want to make sure that we’re going to look at how we distribute and how many individuals come in to pick up these meals. And then, we will adjust accordingly if we need to.”

Any Philadelphia student can get up to two grab-and-go meals at 30 schools across the city, Monday through Friday, from 9 a.m. until noon.

In addition, the city will open 50 city-owned facilities, including gyms and recreation centers, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday to provide safe spaces for students. Although not considered a substitute for child care, students can come for activities or limited meals at 3 p.m. 

Hite also said educational packets, containing two weeks worth of schoolwork, will be available for parents to pick up in the next day.

“Individuals can either come to schools to pick those up, or we may even have a process for distributing those in multiple places,” he advised.

KYW Newsradio’s Mike DeNardo and Cherri Gregg contributed to this report.