From public school systems to charitable organizations, a variety of groups are working together to make sure that children facing food insecurity still get healthy meals while schools around the state remain closed.
On March 13, while declaring a state of emergency amid concerns over the COVID-19 pandemic, Governor Ralph Northam announced the closure of all public schools from March 16 through March 27. Several Central Virginia school districts, including Richmond, Chesterfield, Henrico, Hanover, and Goochland, have since extended the closure into mid-April.
Public schools may be closed, but food insecurity in school-aged children remains a concern, especially within the city of Richmond. Educational institutions play a vital role in providing meals for food-insecure students, and within Richmond Public Schools, over 20 percent of students experience food insecurity at some point during the 2017 school year (the most recent year for which data is available), according to BeHealthyRVA.org.
In order to ensure that a significant portion of the area’s schoolchildren do not go hungry, the central Virginia community has come together during the coronavirus pandemic to provide for the youth. Here’s what’s happening in various school districts in the area to get meals to kids.
Beginning Monday, March 16, Richmond Public Schools began distributing meals to RPS students and their families at 20 different school sites around the city. Food is distributed at these sites Monday through Friday, from 9:30am – 12:30pm. The full list of schools providing food distribution centers can be found below:
- Armstrong High School, 2300 Cool Ln, Richmond, VA 23223
- Binford Middle School, 1701 Floyd Ave, Richmond, VA 23220
- Blackwell Elementary School, 300 East 15th Street, Richmond, VA 23224
- Boushall Middle School, 3400 Hopkins Rd, Richmond, VA 23234
- Broad Rock Elementary School, 4615 Ferguson Ln, Richmond, VA 23234
- Chimborazo Elementary School, 3000 E Marshall St, Richmond, VA 23223
- Fisher Elementary School, 3701 Garden Rd, Richmond, VA 23235
- Francis Elementary School, 5146 Snead Rd, Richmond, VA 23224
- George Mason Elementary School, 813 N 28th St, Richmond, VA 23223
- Ginter Park Elementary School, 3817 Chamberlayne Ave, Richmond, VA 23227
- Greene Elementary School, 1745 Catalina Dr, Richmond, VA 23224
- Henderson Middle School, 4319 Old Brook Rd, Richmond, VA 23227
- Huguenot High School, 7945 Forest Hill Ave, Richmond, VA 23225
- Lucille Brown Middle School, 6300 Jahnke Rd, Richmond, VA 23225
- Miles Jones Elementary School, 200 Beaufont Hills Dr, Richmond, VA 23225
- MLK Middle School, 1000 Mosby St, Richmond, VA 23223
- Oak Grove-Bellemeade Elementary School, 2409 Webber Ave, Richmond, VA 23224
- Reid Elementary School, 1301 Whitehead Rd, Richmond, VA 23225
- Summer Hill Preschool, 2717 Alexander Ave, Richmond, VA 23234
- Wythe High School, 4314 Crutchfield St, Richmond, VA 23225
Henrico County Public Schools have followed the same path. Starting Tuesday, March 17, they created a “grab and go” meal distribution plan, allowing students and others under the age of 18 (accompanied by a parent) to pick up free breakfasts and lunches from 11 a.m.-noon on weekdays at eight different sites around the county. These have since grown to 14 different sites, beginning last Thursday. Here is a full list of the sites:
- Fairfield Middle School, 5121 Nine Mile Road, Henrico, Va. 23223
- Glen Lea Elementary School, 3909 Austin Ave., Henrico, Va. 23222
- Hermitage High School, 8301 Hungary Spring Road, Henrico, Va. 23228
- Highland Springs Elementary School, 600 Pleasant St., Highland Springs, Va. 23075
- Quioccasin Middle School, 9400 Quioccasin Road, Henrico, Va. 23238
- Henrico Volunteer Rescue Squad 31, 5301 Huntsman Road, Sandston, Va. 23150
- Campus of Virginia Randolph, 2204 Mountain Road, Glen Allen, Va. 23060
- Henrico High School, 302 Azalea Ave., Henrico, Va. 23227
- Longan Elementary School, 9200 Mapleview Ave., Henrico, Va. 23294
- Montrose Elementary School, 2820 Williamsburg Road, Henrico, Va. 23231
- Ratcliffe Elementary School, 2901 Thalen St., Henrico, Va. 23223
- Ridge Elementary School, 8910 Three Chopt Road, Henrico, Va. 23229
- Sandston Elementary School, 7 Naglee Ave., Sandston, Va. 23150
Chesterfield County Public Schools has also established a free meal distribution program for students. A lunch and the next morning’s breakfast are provided on a first-come, first-served basis. Student and a parent or guardian must both be present to pick up meals. Meals are available between 11am-12pm at 33 different locations; for the full list, click here.
Hanover County Public Schools began distributing pre-packaged lunch kits to children aged 18 or younger on Monday, March 16. Lunch kits are served on a first-come first-served basis between 11am and 1pm Monday through Friday while supplies last at John M. Gandy Elementary School, located at 201 Archie Cannon Drive in Ashland, and Mechanicsville Elementary School, located at 7425 Mechanicsville Elementary Drive in Mechanicsville.
School systems aren’t the only ones pitching in, though. Indian restaurant India K’ Raja, which is located in the West End, offered to provide free lunch buffet to students during the initial closure period. Of course, since then, due to limits on public gatherings, India K’Raja has, like many restaurants, moved to takeout and delivery orders only. Give them a call at (804)965-6345 to find out if the program is still in place.
The Chesterfield Food Bank will also provide free meals to students through a drive-thru service operating on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 4pm-6:30pm at their Chesterfield location, located at 12211 Iron Bridge Road.
During the coronavirus outbreak, Powhatan-based nonprofit Backpacks of Love have held true to their mission of ensuring access to food for kids in Powhatan, Buckingham, Cumberland, Goochland, Amelia, Henrico, and Chesterfield counties, working with the Powhatan County School Board to get students a week’s worth of food as school closings began, and coordinating deliveries of two weeks of additional food to Powhatan students. They’re working to do more, and are in need of donations — to find out how you can help, go to their website.
Ledbury has also established a fund called Together Forward, which donates a meal to Building a Better RPS and Henrico County Public Schools for every $100 spent. Ledbury CEO Paul Trible noted that since shopping for new clothes isn’t a priority right now, this is a way to do so while also contributing positively to the current efforts.
If you’re in a position to volunteer to help with any of these efforts, please consider doing so — all of these organizations need help to achieve their goals of keeping kids fed while school remains closed indefinitely.
Top Photo by U.S. Department of Agriculture – Rachael Ray Windy City Harvest Lunch, Public Domain, via Wikimedia