DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – With schools and businesses shuttered to slow the spread of Covid-19, Dallas ISD leaders are moving quickly to support struggling families: and the lesson brought home Monday is that there are many.

“It’s just chaos right now, you know, because nobody’s working” shares Angel Lopez, a junior at DISD’s Thomas Jefferson High.

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With cars snaking out the school parking lot and down the street, Lopez walked to Medrano Middle school, hoping to get meals for himself and a younger brother. The teen has learned quickly that the family will need to stretch every available dollar because the paychecks have stopped.

“My mom works at a hotel, my dad works as a painter,” says Lopez. “Nobody’s working. So we are going to get as much food as we can and, try to ride this out.”

DISD is offering ‘Grab and Go’ meals on Mondays and Thursdays between 10:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. at dozens of schools around the district.

“There’s some tough times, even before this happened,” says Michael Rosenberger, DISD’s Executive Director Food & Child Nutrition Services. No registration is required, but parents need to have the children in the car with them to receive the appropriate number of meals.

“Some of the areas of our community just really face tough conditions,” says Rosenberger, “so we’re very proud to be able to offer 3 days of meals…breakfast, lunch and supper, for all children 18 years and younger, and the price is right, because it’s free!”

Rosenberger says the district projected the number of meals they’d need based on the experiences of other districts around the country and the meals they typically provide during spring break. But, nothing about this pandemic has been typical.

The need was evident in the long line of cars turned away just minutes after 1:00, the planned cutoff.

Those who had managed to make it onto the parking lot were able to get meals even if it meant waiting for another hour.

Earlier in the day, families waited for two or more.

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Grateful that the school safety net remained in a time of uncertainty.

“With the most recent declaration last night of our next phase of Dallas restrictions, that may have amped up the anxiety in the community, may have pushed the larger turnout,” says Rosenberger. “What we did, is we had plenty of food prepped for today’s service, and in a number of schools we actually went to the food we had prepared for Thursday, and started serving that.”

Families are asked to remain in their vehicles while staffers and volunteers wearing masks brought out the bagged meals, some saying they hope the effort also sends a message, that the district cares.

“I’ve got 1,800 students who need food,” says Thomas Jefferson Principal Sandi Massey.  “There’s nothing else to do but be here to help serve them.”

Massey says she’s proud of the district’s resilience in the face of yet another unsolicited disaster (her Thomas Jefferson High School was all but destroyed in the October tornado outbreak),and is encouraging her school community to remain positive.

“Our people are resilient,” says Massey, “before the tornado they were resilient, during the tornado, they were resilient and honestly this pandemic is just another challenge to overcome. And we’re going to do it, just like everybody else in the entire world. We’re not alone and that’s the difference.”

She says in spite of the sometimes long wait, families were grateful to be assured of meals for their children.

“Whatever they give us,” says Lopez, “we’ll appreciate it.”

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