Public Schools Feed Children Despite Snow

Snow Storm Threatens Free Meals for Poor Students

Ronald Fonville dishes out a hot meal of chicken nuggets, corn and bread Monday for one of McKinley Technology  Middle School’s students as part of the D.C. Public Schools' effort to feed needy students at 10 middle schools.  Photo by Diandra Bolton, HU News Service

WASHNGTON – The snow that has blanked the region and has kept millions confined to their homes, has put a frown on many faces, but not Loletta Robinson.

On a day when most people stayed at home and businesses, schools and organizations were shut down, Robinson, the cafeteria supervisor at McKinley Technology Middle School, headed to work Monday with a smile on her face, because she was doing the one thing that she really loves.

“My passion is for feeding kids, more so than being in a classroom setting,” Robinson said in between checking with staff to make sure all was prepared properly for the children. 

“It brings me joy to feed students. Some children go without eating in the morning.  Some are homeless.  Some don’t have the income to provide enough food.”

So, even though the D.C. Public School System was closed, McKinley and nine other public middle schools opened their doors to feed any children who might not have enough to eat.  .  

This morning, 15 students braved the still unplowed streets around the school to eat breakfast at McKinley in the Eckington neighborhood in northeast Washington.

The staff made a hot and cold breakfast option in addition to a hot lunch. Those who came were able to get a meal with a protein, fruit, juice, veggies and a carbohydrate.

About 90 percent of the students at the McKinley eat two of their meals during the day as part of the school’s free meals program, said Lori Leetz, a district manager for Chartwells, a food service management organization that provides services for all DCPS. 

The staff attributed the low turnout to the snow that still surrounded the school. 

“We started out kind of slow and it picked up,” cook Ronald Fonville said.  “We had a nice little rush about midway, and then they said they would be back for lunch. We’re looking forward to more for lunch than we did breakfast, because the streets have been cleared off a little more.”

Chartwell supervisors said they were more than happy to come in despite the inclement weather.

“We love serving kids; we love giving back,” said Mikia Dixon, an area manager. “I didn’t like that we had to come out into the show, but I think that it’s really, really good that this option is available.”

Representatives from the mayor’s office and the school worked diligently to clear the roads before the end of the day, said Roberta Downing, a member of the mayor’s office who was on site Monday.

“This type of event is always a concern when schools are closed for snow days to make sure kids are getting food,” Downing said. “For the snow event, we have an all hands on deck situation where everybody is working in a number of roles to make sure that we can dig out and respond.”

Students and their families also turned out to eat at Brookland Middle School in the 1000 block of Michigan Avenue near Catholic University in northeast D.C.   The cafeteria was staffed with six volunteers and four Chartwell employees.

They fed around 17 students and family members a cold breakfast in addition to cheese pizza for lunch.

“One man came and got food to bring home for his father,” said Kenneth Grady, cafeteria manager at Brookland.

Despite the lower than expected turnout, the meals still made an impact in the communities that they served, Leetz said.

“You walk through and you see the kids eating and knowing that some of those kids may not have another meal,” she said. “I really stress to my team that we want them to feel that this is a place where they can come, where it’s safe and every day they know can get a meal and see a smiling face.”