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Free Food Programs Pop Up Throughout United States

From Chicago to Long Beach, California, free meal programs are making it easier to feed families during coronavirus-spurred school closings.

By Tanya A. Christian, ESSENCE

Free food programs are popping up throughout the country after the COVID-19 pandemic put a halt to several major school systems. Over the weekend Chicago became the latest major city to offer free meals in wake of the medical emergency.

According to the Chicago Tribune, the CPS school district will provide boxes of free food that contain three days worth of breakfast and lunch for each student. Boxes can be picked up starting on Tuesday, March 17 at CPS schools between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. The contingency plan will last for at least two weeks.

Chicago follows school districts like West Michigan who closed all K-12 public, private, and boarding schools last week and implemented a meal plan to help its residents. Long Beach Unified School District in California is following a similar free meal model. Other cities are looking to food bank programs, generous businesses, and community organizing to help weather uncertainty during the COVID-19 storm.

Outside of individual cities and states, Congress has been working on making it easier for families to get access to free meals. That includes potentially passing out packaged meals at food banks. Currently, the U.S. Agriculture Department has restrictions on how students can get their subsidized meals but states are putting pressure on the agency to ease the rules to better serve families in need.

The coronavirus aid package passed in the House on Friday helps to address those growing concerns. According to NPR, it includes allowing the USDA to give permission to states to provide food stamps to families who are impacted by the loss of free meals in schools. The measure is expected to be approved in the Senate early this week.

This article originally appeared in ESSENCE.

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