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Where Philly kids can find free meals during coronavirus school closures

WHYY is maintaining an updated list of distribution sites.

Daaiyah Boone hands out bagged meals to students at Tilden Middle School during the coronavirus shutdown.
Daaiyah Boone hands out bagged meals to students at Tilden Middle School during the coronavirus shutdown. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.

To create an improvised meal-distribution program that would feed thousands of families across two-dozen sites, the Mastery Charter Schools network needed some help.

Administrators asked if three staffers at each of its 24 schools could volunteer time to provide this critical service.

The response was “overwhelming,” said Kerry Woodward, Mastery’s Deputy Chief of Institutional Advancement. Between 10 and 15 staffers stepped up at each school, helping the region’s largest charter-school network pull off this considerable undertaking in just three days.

“We are serving our communities by serving meals to anyone in need,” said Woodward.

Mastery started dishing out meals Tuesday and will do so twice a week “for as long as necessary,” Woodward said.

And the need is clear. Mastery distributed 400 meals to 300 families within the first hour of opening its site at Shoemaker School in West Philadelphia, according to Woodward.

When Philadelphia officials initially resisted calls to close city schools, one of their biggest concerns was food insecurity.

Schools provide two free meals a day to thousands of children around the region. And as workers lose paychecks due to mandatory business closures, the need could rise.

The School District of Philadelphia has set up 30 sites where families can get meals. But they aren’t the only ones trying to help.

Below WHYY will maintain a list of all organizations who say they are providing free meals for those in need during the coronavirus outbreak.

School District of Philadelphia
Where: 30 schools across the city
When: Daily, Monday through Friday

There are 30 schools across the city where students can pick up two “grab and go” meals every weekday between 9 a.m. and 12 p.m.

You can find the full list here (purple dots represent meal sites):

In addition, there are 50 recreation center sites (represented by orange dots on the map) that are slated to be open from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. every weekday.

Those 50 rec centers are supposed to distribute one “limited meal” each day — although so far there have been mixed signals about the availability of food at rec centers. Several rec center staffers did not report on Monday because they felt the city’s plan put them in potential danger.

Check back for further details about the availability of meals at recreation centers in Philadelphia.

Mastery Schools
Where: All 24 schools operated by Mastery in Philadelphia and Camden
When: Either daily or twice a week, depending on location (see details below)

Mastery will provide two “grab and go” meals at each of its Philadelphia-based schools on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

The schools will be open from 10 am to 12 pm for meal service. The meals will not be limited to students and families. Any community member is welcome to pick up meals.

For its schools in Camden, Mastery will provide two meals daily in coordination with the Camden City School District. Breakfasts will be available between 9 and 10 am. Lunch will be served between 12pm and 1:30 pm.

For full details and a list of Mastery sites across the region, visit:

ASPIRA Charter Schools
Where: John B. Stetson Charter School and Olney Charter High School
When: See dates below

ASPIRA operates six school sites in North Philadelphia and has opened two meal-distribution locations for families of any Philadelphia school students.

ASPIRA will distribute meals at John B. Stetson Charter School (3200 B Street) and Olney Charter High School (100 W. Duncannon Avenue) on the following dates:

Wednesday, 3/18
Friday, 3/20
Monday, 3/23
Thursday, 3/26

ASPIRA says additional dates could be added if school closures last longer than two weeks.

On each pickup day families can collect “two days’ worth of meals” for every child in the household, according to ASPIRA. All families with students attending school in Philadelphia are eligible — not just families of ASPIRA students.

Where: 7401 Limekiln Pike
When: March 16th through March 27th

Masjidullah, an Islamic community center in West Oak Lane, says it will provide Halal lunches for any students out of school. Meals will be served from 12 pm to 2 pm.

For more information call 215-424-4480.

New Kingdom Baptist Church
Where: 2445 N. Mascher Street
When: Daily, Monday through Friday

Congregants of the New Kingdom Baptist Church in West Kensington have raised money to provide hot meals twice a day in the church’s basement.

Breakfast will be served from 8:30 am to 10 am. Lunch will be available from 12 pm to 1:30 pm.

Those seeking more details can visit the church’s Facebook page.

If you know of any other organizations distributing meals for students out of school, please reach out to reporter Avi Wolfman-Arent ( We’ll update this list as we hear about more community efforts.

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