The global coronavirus pandemic has hit home for Americans in the past week and now that families and workers are being ordered to avoid contact with others to help stem the spread of the virus, many are wondering where they can turn to access food.
As of late Sunday, March 15, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services announced 53 state-confirmed coronavirus (COVID-19) cases, and as test kits become more readily available in the coming weeks, those numbers are expected to spike. On Monday, March 16, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer ordered the statewide closure of all restaurants and bars, aside from pickup or delivery services, following similar orders in Ohio, Illinois, California, and elsewhere.
Monday’s announcement comes after the governor ordered the closure of all K-12 schools starting Monday until at least April 6 and a temporary ban on gatherings of more than 250 people. Meanwhile, the Michigan Gaming Control Board instituted temporary closures of Detroit’s three casinos for at least two weeks.
The en-masse closures are expected to have a particular impact on low-income residents and hourly workers whose employers are now suddenly closed.
With this economic crisis looming, a growing number of agencies, nonprofit organizations, and community activists are mobilizing to provide emergency food services and other resources.
Amid the chaos, Tostada Magazine is reporting on the places and organizations that Metro Detroit residents can reach out to. This information will be updated as new data becomes available.
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At Detroit Public Schools Community District — where, according to Chalkbeat Detroit, nearly 86 percent of students qualify for free or reduced lunch — families will be able to pick up breakfast and/or lunch beginning Wednesday, March 18, from 58 district buildings that will partially open in the morning and afternoon Monday through Friday. “Grab-and-go” breakfast will be served from 8 a.m. – 10:30 a.m., and a “grab-and-go” lunch will be served from 10:30 a.m. – 1 p.m. Students will not be allowed to enter the building. See below for a complete list of participating schools.
Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan also announced Friday that several city recreation centers will partially open to distribute food as part of a partnership with several nonprofits, including Gleaners Community Food Bank, Forgotten Harvest, and the Detroit Children’s Fund. Details about participating recreation centers have not yet been released.
In Oakland County, Birmingham Public Schools will begin giving away breakfast and lunch to any child regardless of whether they are students of the school district beginning Monday. Three mobile distributions sites are being set up, one as a drive-thru between 10 a.m. and noon at Groves High School in Beverly Hills, and two “school bus pickup” style locations between 10-11 a.m., one at Derby Middle School and the other at Huntley Square Apartments in Beverly Hills. Menu items include deli sandwiches, hummus, salads, and yogurt parfaits.
The school food distribution comes after the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) granted the Michigan Department of Education’s request to waive a regulatory requirement that children eat meals together and at schools during unanticipated school closures. This waiver, approved March 12, took immediate effect. Tostada Magazine has contacted a spokesperson for the Michigan Department of Education to obtain a complete list of schools that are providing food distribution services. We will update our coverage as that information is shared. In the meantime, the Freep has compiled a list of food pickup locations throughout Metro Detroit.
Oakland County officials have also established a help hotline – (248) 858-1000 – to address non-health needs like food or housing assistance. The hotline will be staffed from 8 a.m. -8 p.m., Monday-Friday. And a spokesman for the United Way says that residents in need of food or housing assistance can call the agency’s 211 hotline.
Meanwhile, a spokesperson for Gleaners Community Food Bank, which distributes food to local agencies, says that senior leaders within the organization have been working through the weekend to coordinate logistics to reach more people in need.
As for folks who’ve been laid off as a result of the pandemic, Michigan House Democrats have introduced ambitious legislation to provide free testing for the coronavirus, paid sick leave and improved unemployment insurance. For small businesses, the U.S. Small Business Administration announced on March 12 that the agency will be working with states to make loans available to those that are impacted by the crisis. For more information, click here.
Detroit Schools providing meal pickups:
ACADEMY of AMERICAS @ LOGAN (K-3)
ANN ARBOR TRAIL
COMMUNICATIONS & MEDIA ARTS
DETROIT COLLEGIATE PREP HS
DETROIT INTERNATIONAL ACADEMY
EAST ENGLISH VILLAGE PREP HS
ELLINGTON @ BECKHAM
GOLIGHTLY ED. CENTER
KING HIGH SCHOOL
PALMER PARK ACADEMY
This article was made possible by the Detroit Journalism Engagement Fund, a project of the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan, that’s working to increase quality journalism and help better inform communities.
Author: Serena Maria Daniels
Serena Maria Daniels is the co-founder and head chingona of Tostada Magazine. She is an award-winning journalist based in Detroit and specializes on the intersection of food, identity, and culture.
Find her on Twitter and Instagram @serenamaria36!