Figuring Out Feeding During COVID-19: Henderson-Hopkins
How one school is continuing to care for its community
As in previous years, the Henderson-Hopkins school was providing daily access to breakfast, lunch, dinner, and a snack to much of its student body during the 2019-20 school year. The school also hosted regular HEART Markets, MFB’s program that allows kids and their families to shop for fresh produce and nutritious shelf stable foods in a fun and engaging atmosphere.
Then, COVID-19 struck, upending daily life for the school’s 600 families and the surrounding northeast Baltimore community, which notably does not have a grocery store within walking distance of the neighborhood. That issue, combined with the fact that free and reduced-price meals and HEART Markets were no longer available due to the school’s closure, alarmed Henderson-Hopkins Principal Peter Kannam, who knew he was facing a significant challenge.
“Food insecurity was a real challenge before COVID-19; we were giving out a thousand meals during our normal school day,” noted Kannam.
That’s when Principal Kannam reached out to the Maryland Food Bank to see what resources were available for his community.
“The Maryland Food Bank really stepped up to meet the demand, quickly with a dynamic partnership to increase our distributions to 8-9,000 pounds. Even with that, we’re just scratching the surface and we need to do more,” remarked Kannam.
Due to shelter-in-place restrictions, social distancing guidelines, and hygiene/safety requirements, COVID-19 has changed the way that Henderson-Hopkins gives out food in their community.
The cheerful, interactive farmer’s market-style shopping experience of HEART Markets have been replaced with drive-through, trunk-open distributions where staff can only wave at students and families through closed car windows.
School meals and snacks have been replaced by prebagged supplies of fresh produce and shelf-stable foods being shared through plexiglass shields.
“In the last few weeks, the walk-up and drive-up lines have been forming hours before we open, and we give out 8-9,000 pounds of food in less than two hours – but we could be giving out more.”
Stephanie Godbolt was one of the early arrivals for Henderson-Hopkins’ April 24 distribution event, waiting patiently in the block-long walk-up line to make sure her family (including her granddaughter, a sixth grader at the school) have enough healthy food while they’re homebound during the pandemic.
“It’s really hard for a whole lot of people, especially like me; I’m a little older,” said Godbolt. “But I’m prepared with my mask, my hand sanitizer, gloves, and my distance, to get what we need to stay in balance.”
On the other side of the school, Ashland Avenue looked like I-695 during rush hour pre-COVID — cars idling as far as the eye could see, awaiting their turn to receive food via the school’s drive-thru operation.
“They pop their trunk and we put the bags in – about 30 pounds of groceries in four bags per family,” noted Vice Principal J.D. Merrill. “The Maryland Food Bank is really helping fill a need here.”
For families that are unable to access the walk-up or drive-thru options due to health or childcare concerns, Henderson-Hopkins has implemented a grocery delivery system with volunteer drivers who drop off food during the hours of the school distribution events. Professional School Counselor Evan Velleman is one of the volunteers that has taken on the additional role of driver, delivering boxes of much-needed food to the homes of Henderson-Hopkins families.
For Ida Smith, home delivery is a beacon of positivity among the chaos caused by COVID-19. Her husband, who taught art to Baltimore City preschoolers, has been out of work for several weeks, and her health concerns make venturing out to find food a challenge.
“We really do appreciate what the Maryland Food Bank does. They give you fresh fruits and vegetables that you can prepare, and you can make nutritious meals for your children. They give you the things that you need for you to have breakfast, lunch, or dinner, and the additions that you need to make a meal – I’m not really sure what we’d do without them.”
Henderson-Hopkins is just one of hundreds of distribution sites that work with the Maryland Food Bank to ensure nutritious foods are available for all Marylanders, both every day, and in times of increased need.
Our partners are doing incredible work to remain open throughout COVID-19 and safely feed hungry Marylanders, but we know that the effects of COVID-19 are far-reaching, and are going to strain the food assistance safety net for months, if not years to come.
Help make sure that the Maryland Food Bank has the resources to be able to respond when communities call.
Maryland Food Bank’s COVID-19 (Coronavirus) Efforts
Just like COVID-19 has changed the world, we’ve changed the way we’re feeding Maryland. Our network partners, corporate supporters, and staff have really stepped up to ensure all Marylanders have enough to eat during this unprecedented crisis.
We’re making sure kids have access to contactless Grab & Go meals to replace school meals and school pantry visits; offering hard-working families and individuals fresh produce and shelf stable goods via drive-though food distributions; and ensuring homebound seniors have easier access to nutritious foods where they live.
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