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As schools re-open to in-person learning, HISD shifts food distribution to Saturdays to help families affected by COVID-19

Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee also opened her 37th coronavirus testing site Saturday, and urged families and teachers to get tested.

HOUSTON — Houston ISD shifted its food distribution to Saturdays to help families affected by the COVID-19 pandemic as cases of the virus rise in Texas and the Houston area.

Also Saturday, Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee announced the opening of a 37th testing site in Harris County at Harvest Time Church on Imperial Valley Drive in Houston.

“How seriously do I have to cry out for people to get tested? Get tested," the congresswoman said Saturday.

She urged families and teachers who are going back to in-person learning in schools to get tested regularly to prevent COVID-19 from spreading on campuses and leading to another shift to all virtual learning.

“We can clean with Clorox all day long, but if you are infected and active, you can infect someone else," said Jackson Lee.

Those same families who rely on school for their children so they can work were in line at the Hexser T. Holliday Food Services Support Center Saturday afternoon to pick up meals from HISD Nutrition Services.

Food and other supplies for families are available to the general public. 

Student meals are available to children between the ages of 1 and 18 and engaged in virtual learning. If children are not present in the car, families must provide a birth certificate or proof of enrollment in any school district for each child needing meals.

“Because the need is not decreasing, so we have to make these available," said Betti Wiggins, officer of HISD Nutrition Services, on the shift to Saturday distributions.

There are two locations that are open from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays: 

  • Hattie Mae White Educational Support Center, 4400 W. 18th St., 77092 (Hwy. 290 side parking lot)
  • Hexser T. Holliday Food Services Support Center, 6801 Bennington St., 77028

Wiggins estimated they would feed 3,000 families on Saturday.

"We have to constantly put food out into this community because the need is so great," said Wiggins. "You know there's a whole bunch of kids out there depending on us."

Families receive a 32-pound box of food from the Houston Food Bank. Those with students in HISD receive seven breakfasts and seven lunches from HISD, and a gallon of milk for the week.

“It’s hard when my mom doesn’t have work, when my husband is the only one working," said Liz Andrade, who was picking up food.

Andrade is one of the many multigenerational families: she, her husband, and her daughter live with her brother and mother. Her mother, Esmerelda lost her job due to COVID-19, making Liz's husband the sole breadwinner.

"We're grateful." Andrade said of the food distribution. “We really need the help.”

Even retired people are taking advantage. Joel Parker picked up food to give to some of his elderly neighbors who cannot leave the house.

“Some things you don’t have to ask, you just see what’s happening and you help people," said Parker. "You do what God wants you to do: the right thing.”

HISD Nutrition Services recently won "Best in Concept" from Food Management magazine for its handling of food distribution during the pandemic.

For more information on student meals and a complete list of distribution times and locations, visit HoustonISD.org/StudentMeals. Families are encouraged to check the website for temporary closures before going to any location.