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Austin, Garfield Park, North Lawndale

With Schools Closed Due To Coronavirus, Principals Encourage Families To Pick Up Free Meal Boxes

Each CPS school will offer meal boxes to students and their families so kids can still have free breakfast and lunches while schools are closed.

Morton School of Excellence is located at 431 N. Troy St.
Pascal Sabino/ Block Club Chicago
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GARFIELD PARK — Chicago Public Schools began closing its doors to students Tuesday after a rapid escalation of the coronavirus pandemic forced the city to take serious measures to prevent the spread of the disease.

But families that rely on public schools to feed their kids breakfast and lunch each day will still be able to have their nutrition needs met by the school district.

For the duration of the school closures, each school will continue to provide meals that will be available for pickup from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Residents can pick up six meals each day for students and family members at their nearest school — even if the child is not enrolled at that school.

As students left school Monday at Morton School of Excellence, 431 N. Troy St., teachers made sure students knew they could pick up the meal boxes each day and sent the kids home with a snack for the evening and breakfast for the next day.

“The students were very happy receiving their first meal leaving out here today. Nobody said they didn’t want it, and I think that speaks volumes about the need,” said Principal Dr. Peggie Burnett-Wise. The school serves Garfield Park where over half of households earn less than $25,000 a year and many students depend on free lunches for their meals.

Many of Morton’s students are in temporary living situations at shelters and lack stability at home, so Burnett-Wise checked in on those families to make sure that the school can continue to support the most vulnerable kids even while class is cancelled.

A priority for Burnett-Wise is making sure that families are aware that they can get meals not only for the students but for each family member, so her staff is making home calls, sending out email blasts to remind everybody. The email blasts will also include reminders and information about the distance learning curriculum that Morton’s teachers have prepared for students during the shutdowns.

Burnett-Wise and her security staff will also be posted outside of the school to welcome families and encourage them to take the boxes of food so that they don’t feel any shame or hesitation to accept the food from the school.

“It’s going to be really amazing tomorrow to give them those six meals,” Burnett-Wise said.

Pascal Sabino is a Report for America corps member covering Austin, North Lawndale and Garfield Park for Block Club Chicago.

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