by Erin Okuno, columnist
Just a few days ago, Governor Jay Inslee announced schools were closing for weeks to help contain and keep Coronavirus from impacting more of our family and friends. The first thought on many people’s minds was “how would kids get food?” Along with the academic and social-emotional lessons it provides, many students rely upon school for a nutritious breakfast and lunch during the week. As colleagues and friends processed the sudden change in the lives of our students, many started to think about how to keep their kids fed.
The abrupt shutdowns threw most parents outs of sorts. During normal times family support workers, teachers, principals, PTAs, and the community have time to ensure kid’s backpacks are stuffed with extra food, books, and sometimes grocery store gift cards to help families get through a school break. This time school staff didn’t have the luxury of time or the ability to send students home with ample resources.
As schools were rapidly shut down, nonprofits and community based organizations scrambled to meet new needs. Knowing kids would be home, and food is an important part of keeping kids healthy, WA-BLOC (Washington Building Leaders for Change) started organizing.
They quickly determined they could provide two lunches a week to those who need it. Seattle Public Schools is also providing lunches to students at feeding sites across the city. South Seattle distribution sites are Aki Kurose Middle School, Dunlap Elementary, Emerson Elementary, Franklin High School, Mercer Middle School, Rainier Beach High School, and Rainier View Elementary. WA-BLOC’s meals help to supplement these lunches.
WA-BLOC is a community embedded non-profit in the Rainier Valley. They are working to increase educational equity for Black and Brown students with literacy enrichment and leadership development programs at Emerson Elementary and Rainier Beach High School.
As WA-BLOC quickly put together their lunch program, others were also reaching out. Kamala Saxton, owner of Marination Station and the South End’s Super Six, reached out to her friend from Rocket Crossfit saying she wanted to help. Kamala had staff she wanted to keep working and a desire to keep kids fed through this sudden change in student’s lives. With a quick email introduction between Laura Wright, WA-BLOC’s Executive Director and Kamala, the Marination team volunteered to cook, pack, and deliver over 100 lunches to WA-BLOC’s lunch station on Tuesday and Thursday of this week.
On Tuesday lunches with chicken or veggies and rice, drink, fruit, and chips were delivered and handed out. Volunteers were limited to keep social distancing protocols in place. The community spirit and generosity helped to make this happen quickly. As COVID19 continues to work its way through our community we will need more quick and nimble partnerships to form and to build new relationships to support our community.
If you would like to donate to WA-BLOC’s efforts please make a gift here.
Erin Okuno is the Executive Director of the Southeast Seattle Education Coalition (SESEC), a coalition of Community Based Organizations (CBOs), schools, educators, community leaders, parents and caregivers, and concerned SE Seattle residents working to improve education for all children, especially those in SE Seattle and those further away from opportunities.
Featured image by Susan Fried