South Florida schools serve hot meals to Irma victims

MIAMI (WSVN) - Schools are closed and classes have been cancelled in Miami-Dade and Broward counties for the week, and now officials are using campuses to feed a community in need.

“It’s absolutely such a wonderful opportunity to be able to come together and have our schools, our teachers, our principles, our assistant principles, our custodians, our police officers, everybody coming together to help our wonderful community that is going through such distress right now,” said Mari Tere Rojas from Miami-Dade School Board District 6.

On Friday, families got the opportunity to sit down together for a hot, healthy meal at 11 Miami-Dade schools.

7News cameras captured diners of all ages being served at a school cafeteria. “We haven’t been eating hot foods since after the hurricane,” said Miami resident Alejandra Somarriva.

“We have many families that do not have power, many families that are needy, that their children would normally be eating at our school cafeterias and have not been able to do so,” said Rojas, “and today we are able to provide that wonderful opportunity for them to come and join us here, so I think it’s just a blessing for everyone.”

Miami-Dade County Public Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho served some of the meals himself. “I thought it was important for us to provide for the community during their time of need,” he said.

Many Irma victims showed up at Miami Senior High School for the free hot meals served in the air-conditioned cafeteria.

“I was without power, no gas,” said Miriam, a Miami resident. “Horrible, horrible. Worse than Andrew.”

“The families that were here were so grateful,” said Rojas. “They were so, so happy to have the opportunity to get food in their hands, Many of them walked for blocks to get here.”

There were also eight schools in Broward County that distributed free lunches at noon, Friday, in partnership with the United Way of Broward.

“They’re struggling to find food and other resources, so this is a relief moment for our community,” said Broward County Public Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie.

“The United Way is saying that we are here for you,” said United Way of Broward spokesperson Kathleen Cannon. “We just want to take care of the entire community, child by child, family by family.”

Officials from both school districts reaffirmed their commitment to putting smiles on faces and giving hope.

“It’s very heartwarming, This is the reward that we get for doing God’s work,” said Carvalho. “Seventy-five percent of the kids and their parents in our community live below the poverty level.”

Dr. Steve Gallon III from Miami-Dade School Board District 1 said they are addressing an urgent need in the community. “We realized that after the hurricane, there were other traumatic events that affected our children,” he said. “More importantly, their well-being as it relates to a healthy meal.”

“You can come on in. You can have your phones charged,” said Jamarv Dunn, the principal at Miami Carol City Senior High School. “You can listen to some music and enjoy a nice, hot meal.”

There are close to 50 Miami-Dade schools still without power. Carvalho said they will be working throughout the weekend to get them ready.

“We’re going to continue to work with [Florida Power and Light] and with county officials in terms of removing the debris and energizing our schools,” he said. “The tentative date for return back to class is this Monday.”

Lack of power and debris have also been a setback for Broward schools. “We anticipate, within the next 24 hours or so, at least by Saturday morning, we should have most, if not all of our schools back online,” said Runcie.

For a list of schools serving hot meals in Miami-Dade and Broward counties, click here.

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