Schools distribute breakfasts, lunches to children while closed

By Joyce Duriga | Editor
Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Schools distribute breakfasts, lunches to children while closed

Since schools shutdown in March because of COVID-19, 26 archdiocesan schools have been distributing breakfasts and lunches to any child three times a week. Two of those schools are Most Blessed Trinity Academy in Waukegan and Our Lady of Tepeyac in Little Village. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Kathleen Ingram, principal, and Maria Ochoa, assistant principal at Our Lady of Tepeyac High School, hand out lunches to school families at Our Lady of Tepeyac Elementary School in Little Village on April 17, 2020. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
A member of a school family packs up breakfasts and lunches to take home. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Maria Ochoa, assistant principal at Our Lady of Tepeyac High School, helps a school family member with an order. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Cathy Herman, a fourth-grade teacher at Most Blessed Trinity Academy in Waukegan, hands out lessons and school supplies to school families following a food distribution in the parking lot at Cristo Rey St. Martin College Prep on April 15, 2020. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Jessica Ferrara, a third-grade teacher at Most Blessed Trinity Academy in Waukegan, prepares a kit for school families. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Jim Dippold, campus minister at Cristo Rey St. Martin de Porres, gives a thumbs up to students that came with their parents to pick up food and school supplies. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)

When Catholic schools were closed to help prevent the further spread of COVID-19, Office of Catholic Schools staff knew that it wanted to continue serving meals to children who needed them.

The office partnered with Food Service Program, which provides breakfasts and lunches in the schools when they are open, to prepare food for distribution at 26 schools in the archdiocese. Three times a week, families stop by to pick up enough free boxed meals and milk for two days for each child. Friday distributions include breakfast and lunch for Saturday. More than 9,000 children are receiving the meals.

“We believe that our food distribution effort is one more way that we can support our families during this unprecedented time of school closures,” said Jim Rigg, superintendent of Catholic Schools. “We know that many of our families, as well as children in general, struggle with food insecurity. With the closure of schools all throughout greater Chicago — public and private and Catholic — we know that many children don’t have regular access to lunches.”

Students do not have to qualify to receive meals and the program is open to any child, whether they attend a Catholic school or not.

“When we made the decision to close the Catholic School system, we tried to come up with as many ways as we possibly could to support our families during this time. One of first ideas related to lunches,” Rigg said.

One of the schools distributing food is Our Lady of Tepeyac in the Little Village neighborhood.

“There are quite a few families who are coming,” said principal Patricia Krielaart. “What we’ve noticed is it’s frequently families with multiple children who are always there for pickup.”

The school reminds parents of the food distributions through a messaging system. The distribution also includes families at Our Lady of Tepeyac High School because during the school year, the high school students eat at the elementary school every day.

“We’re there waiting for them. All they have to do is come to the doorway and they just take the boxes and the milk. Our contact with them is minimal,” Krielaart said.

Staff distributing food wear protective masks and gloves and everyone observes social distancing.

“We always ask them how the children are,” she said. “Our parents say the children miss school and are asking when they can come back.”

As the weeks have gone by, more families are coming to pick up food.

“The longer this goes on, the more traumatizing this is going to be for the children and also the parents,” she said. “A lot of our families don’t have executive jobs where they can work from home. Many have been laid off or lost their jobs permanently.”

Most Blessed Trinity Academy in Waukegan is also distributing food to its students in conjunction with Cristo Rey St. Martin College Prep, since many of the school’s graduates attend the high school. The food is also provided by Food Service Program.

The school actually ran out of food on April 15, a day they also passed out homework packets.

Because there are students in the school who don’t have computers at home, teachers prepared paper materials for a few weeks of learning and distributed them at a food giveaway right after the shutdown.

On April 15, they collected that homework and passed out more materials. They also passed out Google Chromebooks purchased with government support through the local school district to students who don’t have computers at home. More are still needed.

“One of my biggest concerns is that there are students attempting to do their homework on their parent’s phone,” said Lynne Saccaro, principal of Most Blessed Trinity Academy.

When the parent has to take their phone to work, the student doesn’t have anything to use, she said.

“One of the things that has become very clear to me during this time is what our technology needs are and what we will have to have in place next year to ensure every single kid has a Chromebook that they can take home,” Saccaro said.

Normally, members of the school administration distribute breakfasts and lunches during the week, but on this day, Saccaro received permission from the archdiocese to have teachers there to help with the homework distribution.

Teachers and staff wore masks and gloves and everyone observed social distancing. Many parents and children also had masks on in their cars.

Both the students and the teachers enjoyed seeing each other, even at a distance and for just a minute or two, Saccaro said.

“I know the kids miss the teachers as much as the teachers miss the kids,” she said. “It gave us the opportunity for face time that we normally get in a school day.”


  • catholic schools
  • hunger
  • coronavirus

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