AUSTIN, Texas - Austin ISD and the Austin Ed Fund celebrated a major milestone on Thursday: one million meals distributed to caregivers of AISD students since the program started in May.
Back in March when the pandemic first started, Austin ISD pivoted overnight to start offering curbside meal pickup for students, no small task for the largest school district in this region. Just a couple of months later, they decided to expand on that and also offer meals to those taking care of the students – whether a parent, grandparent, other relative or friend.
"We knew we would always take care of our students," said Michelle Wallis, executive director of the Austin Ed Fund. "Then we saw an opportunity to also support the grown-ups in our community who are struggling."
They’ve been able to do this with the help of community donors and funding from the City of Austin and these meals have a two-fold benefit.
"Not only are we providing meals to families who need it right now, but we’re keeping people employed and keeping our restaurants afloat," said Wallis.
The caregiver meals are being put together by local eateries before being distributed at 48 AISD locations. Participating restaurants include Henbit of Emmer and Rye, L’Oca d’Oro, Colleen’s Kitchen, Contigo, Rosedale Kitchen, Hillside Pharmacy, and Easy Tiger.
"Right now we’re doing about 7,000 meals every week," said David Norman, head doughpuncher at Easy Tiger.
After initially shutting down their locations, Easy Tiger has been able to stay open during the pandemic by pivoting to new methods like curbside delivery and selling their bakery products in grocery stores.
Being a part of the AISD caregiver meal program has also helped keep them punching dough. "We were able to bring back a good portion of the people that we had to lay off when we shut down the restaurant in March, and we just built that crew up," said Norman.
And thanks to the opportunity with AISD, along with the other adaptations, the owners of Easy Tiger have been able to not only stay in business but plan to open a new location in East Austin in February.
"We’re happy to continue to feed Austin and help out our community," said Norman.
Along with reaching the one million caregiver meals mark, AISD received some more good news recently. Austin Public Health amended its current agreement with the Austin Ed Fund to provide $3.9 million to support caregiver meals through September 2021 if necessary.
"There were some tears when we heard," said Wallis. "It’s just been truly amazing to see the generosity."
To learn more about the caregiver meal program or see a list of locations, visit the Austin Independent School District website.