As the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) district works to support families during the unprecedented challenge presented by COVID-19, CPS recently announced that grab-and-go meals are be available to families during the district’s scheduled spring break the week of April 6.
Locally, grab-and-go meals will be available at the Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences, 3857 W. 111th St.
Through one of the nation’s most ambitious free meal programs, 2.8 million grab-and-go meals have been provided to CPS families since schools closed earlier this month.
To provide greater flexibility for district staff that has helped feed students in recent weeks and to ensure long-term consistency in location pick-up for families, the district will be consolidating its least-utilized meal distribution sites beginning April 13.
“Chicago is offering the most ambitious free meal distribution program in the country, and we are committed to providing free meals at the majority of our schools for the entire time schools are closed,” said CPS CEO Dr. Janice Jackson. “The modifications we are making will provide additional support for our school staff and ensure a strong staffing plan is in place that helps prevent disruption for our families.”
Since schools closed earlier this month, CPS has operated meal sites at nearly all of its schools. Grab-and-go meal sites are open every weekday, and families who visit meal sites are provided with three days of breakfast and lunch per child.
Free, CPS-provided meals are a necessity for a large number of CPS students, and the district is committed to providing free meals to all students for the duration of the school closure.
Under the district’s revised meal-distribution plan, which will begin on April 13, 276 schools that have been high-demand distribution sites for families will continue to provide free meals, and schools that were less frequently utilized by families will no longer serve as distribution sites. Consolidating meal sites will promote operational stability for the length of the closure and provide the following benefits for staff and families:
•Lunchroom staff: By consolidating sites, the district will need fewer staff each day while still ensuring that students are fed each day. All staff will continue to be paid, and staff who are not working or assigned to an active meal site will be able to stay home and practice social distancing.
•School administrators: Reducing the number of active meal sites will also reduce the number of principals and assistant principals who are overseeing meal distribution each day. The district will rotate administrators through the consolidated sites, which will provide additional time for all principals to support remote learning, which launches district-wide on April 13.
•Families: It is a priority for the district to offer reliable service and certainty about the meal sites that will be open each day. By consolidating sites and supplementing staffing levels by transferring in some of the staff from deactivated sites, the district will have stronger staffing plans at each school. Improved staffing will help ensure meal sites do not need to close in the event of staff absences, which has the potential to become a greater concern due to the growth in COVID-19 cases.
“SEIU Local 1 lunchroom managers are happy to step up to do their part for our communities during this unprecedented crisis and feed thousands of Chicago children,” said SEIU Local 1 President Tom Balanoff. “We look forward to continuing to work with CPS during these trying times to protect and strengthen our communities.”
Karen Kent, president of Unite Here Local 1, echoed those sentiments.
“Caring for the kids is not simply what the CPS lunchroom staff do, it is who they are,” said Kent. “Continuing to do that work in these times demonstrates the depth of their commitment to Chicago’s children.”
Under the district’s consolidated meal plan, 52 percent of CPS schools will offer free meals on a daily basis, far outpacing options provided in most large cities. Ninety percent of all students will live within one mile of a meal distribution site, and 75 percent of sites will be located on the south and west sides of the city.
Although the revised site structure is designed so that families will maintain close proximity to the nearest site, the district will continue to provide free delivery for families who need additional support.
During the week of spring break, 136 CPS schools will provide free meals from Monday through Thursday, with no food distribution on Good Friday, April 10.
School-based lunch staff were not previously scheduled to work during spring break and those who continue to work during this period will receive additional compensation, and their paid vacation will be rescheduled to a later date. Staff who do not work will receive paid vacation as scheduled.
For the full list of meal sites that will be open during spring break and under the consolidated site plan beginning April 13, call (773) 553-KIDS or visit cps.edu.