Families with young students at five Syracuse city schools were invited to enjoy a free Thanksgiving lunch together on Tuesday. The meals were meant to engage students and parents at schools in some of the city’s poorest areas.
At Delaware Primary School in Syracuse, Walitza Cruz, a nurse assistant, visited her five-year-old son, who is in Kindergarten.
“To spend time with him, to be a part of the luncheon with everyone else,” Cruz said.
She and 100 other parents and family members of students at Delaware had a Thanksgiving meal on the last day of school before the holiday.
“Turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, cranberry and apple crisp for dessert,” Cruz said.
United Healthcare Community Plan sponsored the Thanksgiving Family Feast. Syracuse School District Director of Food and Nutrition Rachel Murphy said the large turnout at Delaware made her nervous they might run out of food.
“When we had the idea of having family engagement, inviting basically, anybody and everybody to come to the school, first 123 folks who sign up are free, we thought, how is this going to happen?" Murphy said. "How is this going to look? But then seeing the students with their family members coming in, having the families come together from different grade levels, brothers, sisters, cousins, aunts, uncles, it’s just beautiful.”
Murphy said the idea was to bring families together for a Thanksgiving meal in a neutral setting.
“Some of these families, not all, but some of our families in the city of Syracuse experience extreme poverty, and Thanksgiving meal is not an option," Murphy said. "It’s not something they can go home and make. It’s not something that they have resources they can do."
Delaware Primary School Dean of Students Merritt Kusak-McGuire said they have not held a large family outreach event like this at the school in a few years.
“We anticipate doing more events like this at Delaware," Kusak-McGuire said. "We know how busy parents can be, how busy family life can be, especially when you have multiple children. For us to reach out and make a reality for families and parents before holidays, it takes some burden off of them.”
In addition to the five schools that got free Thanksgiving meals, several other schools in the district offered a discounted lunch to families at $4 per person.