After suspending its food distribution program Monday in the wake of a weekend of street violence and unrest, Chicago says it will resume providing free, pre-packed breakfasts and lunches at schools on Tuesday.
On Monday evening Chicago schools chief Janice Jackson called the meal sites a “critical community resource” and that the district decided to resume the service after an assessment of the day’s conditions, which included marches and protests but fewer heated confrontations between protesters and police. Additional protests were planned for Monday evening.
“We support and stand with Chicagoans who are forcefully, yet peacefully, advocating for the rights of black and brown people,” Jackson said.
Criticism erupted on social media after the district halted its meal program due to weekend violence and some damage and looting of storefronts. The unrest occurred after marches decrying the killing of an unarmed black man, George Floyd, by a white Minneapolis police officer.
Jackson said Monday morning that she made the decision out of regard for the safety of the workers at the 300 food distribution sites. The district also runs a food delivery program, which it did not suspend.
As neighborhood organizations, restaurants, and parents quickly stepped up with meals at some sites, several community groups started a petition calling on the district to reinstate the food program immediately.
The city’s teachers union called the halt “wrong, vengeful and unnecessary.”
”This policy is a form of collective punishment — essentially punishing poor schoolchildren who rely on those meals,” union President Jesse Sharkey said, pointing out that rent also was due for many Chicago residents on Monday and families were struggling.
On Monday evening, the district released “Say Their Names,” a package of materials that educators can use to discuss with students the killing of Floyd, and the ensuing protests.
“We hope this leads to critical conversations in households and virtual classrooms across Chicago,” Jackson said.