Shared from the 3/18/2020 The Providence Journal eEdition


At school, 3 virus takeaways: Breakfast, lunch, computers


Smiley Del Rosario picks up breakfast and lunch for her kids at the tent in front of Mount Pleasant High School on Tuesday. Helping her at left is Niurka Madera. [THE PROVIDENCE JOURNAL / SANDOR BODO]


Kelvin Rodriguez, a freshman at Mount Pleasant, says he’ll miss his friends while school is closed. [THE PROVIDENCE




Donna Greene helps tidy up the bags containing lunches and breakfasts under a tent outside Mount Pleasant High School on Tuesday.


PROVIDENCE — On Tuesday, Philip McKendall stood outside Mount Pleasant High School behind a table lined with bagged breakfasts and lunches for Providence students.

As students approached the table, which was sheltered from the rain by a small tent, McKendall, who is the executive chef manager for Sodexo, the food services company that serves the Providence Public Schools, directed them to take one of each meal, along with cartons of milk.

“I’ve been a chef for over 20 years, and the best part of my job is taking care of these kids,” McKendall said. “We have kids in Providence that this is some of the only food they get. It’s hugely important.”

The Providence Public School Department started distributing meals to students on Tuesday at 10 sites across the district. Schools also distributed Chromebooks on Tuesday to students in grades 3 through 12 who need them for distance learning.

“Me and my family are just staying home, taking care of ourselves, washing our hands,” said Kelvin Rodriguez, a ninth-grader at Mount Pleasant who went with his father on Tuesday to pick up meals and a Chromebook.

Rodriguez said he was happy when he heard that schools would be closed, but also sad because he misses his friends and his teachers.

“Hopefully I can come back to school to do my work,” he said. “I feel like it’s going to be boring, because I’m going to be in my house doing nothing, watching TV.”

The Department of Health is keeping an updated list of locations across the state where free meals are being provided to schoolchildren, at

The City of Providence has also stepped in to provide free grab-and-go dinners to city residents 18 and younger starting Wednesday. The meals will be available for pickup at each of Providence’s 11 recreation centers between 4 and 6 p.m. weekdays, according to the city.

At Mount Pleasant High School on Tuesday, about 100 students came to pick up meals during the first hour. McKendall said staff were prepared to serve about 400, but have the capacity to serve many more if needed.

In the Providence Public Schools, about 85% of students are eligible for free or reduced lunches, based on school department data. Providence schools allow all students access to free breakfasts and lunches without needing to qualify for a program.

Smiley Del Rosario, a Providence mother with four children, three of whom are in the Providence public school system, brought her children to Mount Pleasant on Tuesday to pick up meals.

“I hope this passes quickly,” she said in Spanish, as she stood in the rain in front of the table of food.

Del Rosario, who works as a hairdresser, said she has been staying at home with her children since schools shut down last week. They’ve been taking things day by day and not leaving the house much.

“It’s not great, but we have to do it,” she said.

Eleanor Wilson, who has a son at Evolutions High School, brought him to pick up a Chromebook. She said she pulled her son out of school two days before officials announced the closures because he has severe asthma.

“That’s why we’ve been sitting still,” she said, hoping “it goes away.”

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