From Chicago to DeKalb to West Aurora, some school districts are temporarily stopping meal distribution because of Sunday night’s looting and vandalism. Those actions came after cities saw protests in response to the killing of George Floyd.
The West Aurora School District is suspending its program only for Monday and Tuesday.
With record numbers of workers filing for unemployment during the pandemic, the district has seen a rise in the need for meals for families.
They distribute around 4,000 meals to students every day, Monday through Friday. The meal packs have breakfast and lunch, so Angie Smith says you can think of it as 8,000 meals.
They have also provided food to Hesed House homeless shelter residents who relocated to a suburban hotel because of the pandemic.
Smith is the assistant superintendent of operations at West Aurora. She says the pandemic has highlighted how many people rely on their schools for much more than academics.
“Some people come every day because they don't have the refrigerator space to hold more than a day. So they rely on us,” she said.
She says the district decided Sunday night, when looting and vandalism in downtown Aurora was ongoing, to suspend the service for Monday and Tuesday. Smith says the Aurora Police Department recommended the move, because of the schools’ proximity to downtown.
“When they were when throwing things into glass in downtown Aurora, they didn't think about the fact that that might mean that 4,000 kids don't get lunch tomorrow,” said Smith. “But that's what happened.”
Other districts, including East Aurora, chose to keep their food services open.
Due to COVID-19, West Aurora is continuing its program through the summer.
DeKalb Superintendent Jamie Craven released a statement to families Monday morning saying that “due to unrest in the community” they were suspending the grab-and-go meal program until further notice.
The DeKalb School District recently expanded its meal distribution to include five-day food packs.
The district’s food services director says they provide around 700 meals a day, and, thanks to the weeklong food packs, that number could be double now.
Editor's Note: DeKalb Public Schools superintendent Jamie Craven released a follow-up statement saying DeKalb meal distribution will resume Tuesday, June 2.