School districts are keeping low-income children fed amidst education uncertainty from a global pandemic.
Murphy School District in Phoenix, like many others, sets up a drive-up meal site Monday through Friday for breakfast and lunch. The district has nine locations, three at schools, and six other mobile sites where students can get a free breakfast or lunch, and adults can buy a meal for $2.00.
"Our families are in need of it. They come here on a daily basis," said Erika Mancilla, Assistant Principal at William R Sullivan Elementary School. "They count on that support from us to them. It's really making an impact."
William R Sullivan Elementary School provides 150 to 200 meals a day to its students and families. Murphy School District is one of 21 districts in Arizona, with 80 percent or more of students eligible for free and reduced meals.
"My husband doesn't have a lot of work, so this helps to feed the kids," said Juana Martinez, a parent in the district.
"Honestly, it has been very difficult... wondering what I could feed them. But thank God we have still gotten our daily bread," said another parent.
Meals are backed through the National School Lunch Program and will continue even with in-class schooling delayed, or if Governor Doug Ducey decides to cancel school altogether.
Districts themselves survey families in the district to find out who is eligible for free or reduced meals, then the federal government reimburses schools for the number of students fed.
"So they can ensure that at the beginning of the school year,’I know I have, for instance, 400 students who qualify. We need to make sure we purchase enough food for 400 kids' breakfasts and 400 kids' lunches for the amount of school days,'" said Marisol Garcia. Vice President of the Arizona Education Association. "[It's] intended to help, especially students in poverty, to ensure that they had the necessary nutrition to excel in school."