D.C. public schools are closed for the next two weeks, meaning some students may not be getting their normal school-provided meals.
By now, it’s pretty clear the coronavirus will disrupt many aspects of our lives—from work to leisure—for the foreseeable future. And as headlines grow more ominous, it’s easy to feel powerless about changing the course of the pandemic while diligently washing your hands for the umpteenth time on a given day. (To be clear, experts urge washing your hands regularly and practicing social distancing to help stop the virus from spreading.)
Although no one can single-handedly obliterate the virus or halt its wide-ranging impacts, there are still plenty of ways to help. Charities, nonprofits and community aid networks across the D.C. region are mobilizing to help the most vulnerable people among us.
With that in mind, DCist has rounded up a few ways you can combat the effects of COVID-19, the disease caused by coronavirus, even from the comfort of your home. And don’t forget: Maintain social distance!
Help Low-Income Kids Get Meals During School Closures
D.C. Public Schools closed its campuses Monday, through the end of March, due to coronavirus concerns. For many of the District’s low-income students, the closures could mean missing the meals they’re typically provided at school: Thousands of DCPS students get free or reduced-price breakfast and lunch through a city program, with more than three-quarters of these students considered economically disadvantaged, according to official data.
what you need to know about it in the D.C. region.
While DCPS will continue to provide meals for students between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. at more than a dozen campuses across the city, this may not be enough to keep their hunger at bay, as many families will likely face increased food uncertainty during the COVID-19 outbreak as a result of business closures, layoffs, and lost wages. (D.C. charter schools are on their own individual closure schedules, with about 25 schools currently offering meals.) Luckily, private organizations are stepping in to help them out.
Nonprofit Martha’s Table has pledged more than $300,000 to assist local families and is distributing $15-per-day grocery-store gift cards. In addition, the organization is delivering online educational material so kids can keep learning from home. “It is exactly in times like these that our city needs leaders like Martha’s Table to stand up and do what is right to support our neighbors, and we are proud to stand alongside our community in this effort,” said Kim Ford, the nonprofit’s president, in a statement.
Other well-established charities like Miriam’s Kitchen and The Capital Area Food Bank are also raising money to support families during the crisis. And those aren’t the only ways of contributing to local charitable efforts tied to the coronavirus:
- A group of teachers started a GoFundMe campaign to buy $100 grocery gift cards for every Arlington student who qualifies for free or reduced lunch (an $830,000 tab).
- The parent-teacher organization at Shaw’s Seaton Elementary is raising money for students during the pandemic.
- Nonprofit FirstBook is collecting donations for low-income students who need books and hygienic supplies.
- An ad hoc group called DC Solidarity Housing has a sign-up sheet for residents willing to put up students who may be displaced during the outbreak.
Donate to or Buy A Gift Card from Local Businesses
D.C.’s restaurant industry is already bearing much of the brunt of the crisis. After an initial announcement imposing capacity limits for city establishments, and separate federal guidance recommending against gatherings of 50 people or more, Mayor Muriel Bowser announced Monday that restaurants and bars needed to shut down beginning that night to help contain the virus. (Deliveries and takeout are still allowed.)
If you’re thinking about the District’s many chefs, waiters, and bartenders, consider a donation to the Coronavirus Worker Relief Fund, a partnership between Park View tavern and event venue Hook Hall and the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington. Hook Hall is also offering free meals, professional development, and other services for workers affected by the crisis.
As an alternative, you could buy a gift card to your favorite local spot using this super handy, crowdsourced list of places that allow people to buy gift cards online. Or you could treat your friends in the restaurant industry to a $60 “Corona Care Kit” from local shop Made In DC. Even simpler: You could make a Venmo donation to your local waiter or bartender via this “virtual tip jar” list.
Run Errands For Someone Who Needs To Stay Indoors
The elderly and those with preexisting conditions such as heart disease or diabetes are at much greater risk of getting sick from coronavirus. If you’re able, you could volunteer to run errands—shop for groceries, pick up prescriptions, go on toilet-paper runs—for people who experts are strongly encouraging to stay at home.
Support Your Local Mutual Aid Network Or Start Your Own
Coronavirus’ negative impact on the D.C. economy is already being felt, and many community members are banding together in grassroots support groups to mitigate it. “Mutual aid networks” are popping up in every ward of the city, with volunteers setting up fundraising efforts, childcare services, food drives, and even mental health hotlines.
In Ward 1, local activists Natacia Knapper and Aliza Wasserman are collecting money for vulnerable Northwest residents. In historically underserved areas like Wards 7 and 8, several local entities have set up a hotline (202-630-0336) for people to report their daily food and supply needs.
To get involved with a mutual aid network, you can start by finding your local group using this spreadsheet. And if you’re unable to find a group nearby, there’s always the option to launch one yourself.
Give Blood To Your Local Red Cross
Health officials say the coronavirus epidemic could lead to a serious shortage of blood supply. Across the U.S., around 1,500 Red Cross blood drives had already been canceled as of a few days ago, representing a loss of 46,000 donations, the humanitarian organization said.
“If we continue to see blood drives cancel, we are going to reach a level of inventory of which we haven’t seen in the past,” explained Chris Hrouda, the president of biomedical services at the American Red Cross, in a statement last week.
The silver lining is that the virus doesn’t pose any known risks for blood donors, according to the Red Cross. The organization is taking extra precautions for blood drives, including checking temperatures and ramping up disinfections at donation centers.
For District residents, the simplest way to donate is to schedule an appointment at the Dr. Charles Drew Blood Donation Center, located at 1730 E St. NW in Foggy Bottom. The Red Cross also has donation centers outside the city in Rockville, Maryland, and Fairfax, Virginia.
Offer Free Services Online
Some people and businesses are providing free therapy, meditation, yoga, and tutoring online during the pandemic. Core Power Yoga, for one, is currently offering free digital access to hour-long instructional yoga videos.
This story originally appeared on DCist.