The District of Columbia’s experiment serving hot meals to hungry students during a school shutdown picked up steam Tuesday, with twice as many students participating as the day before.
School officials repeated the program they launched as an experiment on Monday, but with better turnout, possibly because of heightened publicity, including robocalls to families on Monday evening to let them know about the meals.
The result was that 201 breakfasts and 745 lunches were served in 10 schools scattered around the city. The busiest site was Eastern High School, where 220 meals were eaten while the slowest site was Brookland Middle School, which served just 19 lunches and no breakfast, according to school officials.
City schools have been closed since last Friday, as the region was socked by a massive blizzard. D.C. schools are expected to reopen Wednesday.
But during the snowy weekend, officials worried that the shutdown meant thousands of students who depend on school breakfast and lunch were going hungry. An estimated 75 percent to 80 percent of District students qualify for free and reduced-price meals.
So they opened 10 middle and high schools in targeted areas around the District and offered a free cold breakfast and hot lunch to anyone who walked in.
D.C. public schools offer meals during the summer for needy children but this week marked the first time the district offered food during a weather-related closure.
None of the surrounding suburban districts offered anything similar, though the Loudoun County schools regularly distribute food bags to eligible children on Fridays to ensure children have enough to eat over the weekend; spokesman Wayde Byard said some schools distributed the food Thursday ahead of the blizzard.
Nathaniel Beers, chief operating officer for D.C. Public Schools, said officials are analyzing this week’s experiment and will discuss whether there are more effective ways to reach students in need during weather-related shutdowns.
“When we talk about major storms like this, when we’re out for significant numbers of days, we have to review how we make sure our kids get food,” Beers said. “How do we make it accessible? How far into the community do we need to go? Some districts send home food before the storm — is that something we need to look at?”