As schools across the nation shut down to prevent the spread of coronavirus, three public school teachers from Yorktown High School in Arlington, VA, have made it their mission to raise money for students who rely on free and reduced meals. "Kids who are on the free and reduced lunch program, they can get two meals a day from school, breakfast and lunch," Laurie Vena, a chemistry teacher at Yorktown High, said in an interview with Good Morning America. "For many of them, that might be the only two meals of the day that they get. For those students, the primary thing they need is food or they can't learn anything from us. Physics and chemistry are out the window when they're hungry."
"I'm just floored and overwhelmed by the care we have for everyone."
In an effort to help students as much as possible during this challenging time, Vena and two physics teachers from Yorktown, Aaron Schuetz and Deborah Waldron, launched a GoFundMe effort to raise $830,000 that would provide $100 grocery gift cards for the approximately 8,300 Arlington Public School District students who receive free or reduced lunches. Just two days after launching the GoFundMe, they've raised over $37,000.
"One person alone thinks, 'What can I do?' but I see how many people are donating and what they're donating and I'm just floored and overwhelmed by the care we have for everyone," said Vena. "This is what we want our community to be so we need to show our kids that this is who we are."
Nonessential field trips and overnight events have been cancelled, but Arlington Public School District has yet to officially announce any school closures. If the schools do close, Vena and her fellow teachers say they still plan to distribute grocery gift cards to students "as soon as possible." According to their GoFundMe page, if they do not meet their $830,000 goal, they also plan to collaborate with school social workers and "prioritize gift cards to the most vulnerable kids in the neediest schools first."
While an official plan to provide school lunch aid in light of the coronavirus has yet to be implemented, Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced on Tuesday that plans might be put in place to continue meal service at off-campus sites like churches and libraries following school closures.