LEESBURG, Va. — Loudoun County Public Schools announced Thursday that they were shutting down until March 20 over COVID-19 concerns. The closure potentially leaves thousands of students without access to a meal each day.
According to data from the Virginia Department of Education, more than 15,000 kids qualify for a free or reduced lunch at LCPS--more than 18% of the district's student population. Many of them eat breakfast and lunch there every day.
A Leesburg nonprofit is stepping up to help.
Mobile Hope has served at-risk and homeless youth for about a decade, according to the group's founder and CEO, Donna Fortier.
"We provide everything from soup to nuts," Fortier said.
Fortier said that includes daily meals, employment services, driver's license help, court services, medical and mental issues, and more.
She said before the district even announced the closure, parents were calling them, concerned about where their kids' meals would come from.
So, she said they posted on Facebook, asking the community for donations so they could serve even more children who rely on the schools for free and reduced lunches. More than a 1,000 people shared the post.
"It's crazy" Fortier said. "This is the best community, truly."
On average, she said they deliver 4,000 to 5,000 meals to families a year on their Mobile Hope bus, complete with clothing, diapers, food and other supplies. They also feed about 300 homeless 18 to 24-year-olds each year, but she said that number constantly increases.
"At least with the population we serve, a lot of the families are already struggling, and so part of our prevention program for these families is to come here and get things for free so they can save money on rent, utilities, cars, whatever," she said.
To help out with children impacted by the coronavirus-related closure, they decided to ramp up deliveries. Fortier said typically, they drive the bus to eight neighborhoods throughout the county. Now, they're looking to expand.
"This has created a whole new set of new circumstances, because now parents have to figure out, can they even go to work?" Fortier said. "So, it has really become a difficult situation, and so we want to be able to step in and least offset their costs with food…so we hope going into the neighborhoods as well as what’s being planned is going to help."
She said Mobile Hope plans to have a distribution day on Sunday and start delivering on their expanded route on Monday.
To protect everyone's safety, Fortier said they will not be allowing clients on the bus, as they typically do. She said staff will hop off the bus to deliver bagged breakfasts and lunches.
"We're just going to do the best we can and see what happens," she said.
Fairfax County Schools said they reached out to Mobile Hope for help, too, as they prepare for the possibility of closure.
For anyone who wants to donate, she said the main items they're looking for now are:
- Gift cards for restaurants or gas
- Feminine products
LCPS said it will be continuing its meal service throughout the closure as well, serving free breakfast and lunch at each school from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. The district said meals will be distributed at a designated location outside of the buildings.
Here's a list of other districts' plans to feed students who receive free or reduced lunches (info comes from district spokespeople):
Fairfax County Schools:
Working on a plan that will likely involve non-profits, like Mobile Hope.
Arlington County Schools:
Depending on recommendations from public health officials, the district will provide lunches to students at designated locations.
Alexandria Public Schools:
Officials are putting a plan in place to feed families that will likely involve boxed and bagged meals.
Prince George's County Schools:
Officials have selected the following nine locations to serve as meal sites while all public schools are closed until Mar. 27:
- Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School, 4545 Ammendale Road, Beltsville
- William Wirt Middle School, 6200 Tuckerman St., Riverdale Park
- Nicholas Orem Middle School, 6100 Editors Park Drive, Hyattsville
- Kenmoor Middle School, 2500 Kenmoor Drive, Landover
- Benjamin Tasker Middle School, 4901 Collington Road, Bowie
- Walker Mill Middle School, 800 Karen Blvd., Capitol Heights
- Drew-Freeman Middle School, 2600 Brooks Drive, Suitland
- Thurgood Marshall Middle School, 4909 Brinkley Road, Temple Hills
- Stephen Decatur Middle School, 8200 Pinewood Drive, Clinton
Charles County Schools:
The district will provide free bagged lunch for kids 18 and under, that they will be able to take home with them. Officials anticipate finalizing locations by Monday.
The district will be providing free breakfast and lunch at the following sites:
• Ballenger Creek Elementary
• Crestwood Middle School
• Frederick High School
• Hillcrest Elementary School
• Lincoln Elementary School
• Monocacy Elementary School
• North Frederick Elementary School
• Waverley Elementary School
Breakfast: 8:30-9:30 AM
Lunch: 11:30 AM-12:30 PM
Officials said they're also delivering cold "to-go" lunches to different community sites.
DC Public Schools:
Officials said free meals will be available to all students, not just DCPS students, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the following locations:
- Anacostia High School
- Ballou High School
- Banneker High School
- Brookland Middle School
- Cardozo Education Campus
- Columbia Heights Education Campus
- Coolidge High School
- Eastern High School
- Jefferson Middle School
- Kelly Miller Middle School
- Kimball Elementary School
- LaSalle-Backus Education Campus
- McKinley Education Campus
- Stanton Elementary School
- Walker-Jones Education Campus
- Woodson High School
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