When schools close because of storms like the one Maryland is still digging out from under, many of us think of kids sledding, building snowmen, tossing snowballs at each other. But in Baltimore, where 85 percent of the students qualify for free and reduced price meals, some of those kids may go hungry.
Melissa Moore, of the Family League, says that’s the first thing she and her partners in the city schools and at Elev8 Baltimore think of.
"We think of what’s going to happen now that children in Baltimore City can’t receive breakfast and lunch and snack and dinner," she says. There are a lot of children in Baltimore "getting three meals a day through these federal programs."
So, when the storm moved in last weekend, she and the other partners set in motion plans to distribute lunches through Arundel Middle-Elementary and 38 other schools and rec centers throughout the city. They advertised through social media that students could come to the school to pick them up.
But on Tuesday, and again, Wednesday, hardly anyone showed up.
Rochelle Machado, Arundel’s principal—and no relation to the Orioles third baseman—figured with the sidewalks still covered with snow it might be difficult for her students to get to the school. So, she and a group of teachers and parents "just decided to go ahead and just distribute the lunches out into the neighborhood."
They wound through the streets of Cherry Hill, the trunks of their cars loaded with sandwiches, milk, fruit drinks and granola bars. And at every stop they attracted a crowd of kids like Linwood Wilkes and his buddies.
"It was good," Wendell said as he wolfed down a turkey sandwich, milk, juice an apple and a granola bar. "It was good you all stopped by."
That’s right; a granola bar. As it turns out these kids love them. Who would have thought?
The food is purchased through a federal program and the Family League’s Moore says there are guidelines for serving the most healthy, complete meals they can. They have to have a protein, a grain, a vegetable, fruit and milk. They take into account food allergies and religious dietary requirements. But no chips and no sodas.
Moore says they serve something like a million meals and a million snacks a year through the program.
And as long as the schools remain closed, Machado and her staff and parents will be trailing through Cherry Hill with food.