Tacoma Public Schools offers free meals to students during COVID-19 closure

TACOMA - Making sure no child goes hungry during school closures is a priority for Tacoma Public Schools. The district is offering free breakfast and lunch for all students while schools are shut down to prevent COVID-19 from spreading.

Scott Heinz, Tacoma Public School Board president, said so many children in the district depend on school meals to have something to eat for the day.

“We know in a district of 30,000 students that’s high poverty, there are a lot of kids that eat most of their meals at school and it becomes a hardship when school is not in session. And so, we’re doing everything we can to try to mitigate that food insecurity that kids and families may be facing,” said Heinz.

Heinz said the district is working with state and federal agencies to serve children in need during the school closure. For now, classes are scheduled to resume on Monday, April 27.

All 10 middle schools within the district will offer free sack breakfast and lunch from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m.

Clara Cheeves and her twin daughters grabbed their sack breakfast and lunch at Jason Lee Middle School. She said it’s one less thing parents have to worry about while their kids are out of class.

“Children need a lot of food in the day, so it’s really helpful to have this,” said Cheeves.

The district is also providing lesson packets for each grade level so students don’t miss out on their education. Cheeves said her third-graders are also using online tools.

“We’re doing this thing called ‘i-Ready’ and you can do math and reading. And you can also play math games on it,” said Cheeves’ daughter Valen.

Cheeves is pursuing a degree and is able to stay at home with her kids during the closure. She said she appreciates the services the district is providing during the outbreak. Though she also said she can’t help but wonder how else TPS will handle coronavirus concerns.

“Things have escalated pretty quickly,” said Cheeves. “Just taking one day at a time. I know the schools are closed until the end of April. But people are saying it’s a possibility it could go longer than that.”

Childcare is one thing several parents have questions about.

“It’s really hard to find care, care is very expensive. So, I hope that comes through, especially for a lot of my friends I know will really need it,” said Cheeves.

Heinz said the district is trying to provide childcare to help working parents but said finalizing plans has been challenging. He explained the district is working with city partners and community organizations to offer the service.

The City of Tacoma is encouraging people who are impacted by closures due to COVID-19 prevention to visit its “Make It Tacoma” website. There, people can learn more information including loans for small businesses, and guidance for rental and utility customers.