HAMPTON ROADS, Va. - For tens of thousands in Hampton Roads, school isn't just a place to learn. It's a guaranteed meal every day.
Since closing to avoid the spread of COVID-19, schools in Virginia, North Carolina and across the country have kept that promise to feed students, offering free grab-and-go meals.
The USDA says nearly 30 million kids in the U.S. qualify for free or reduced lunch; 450,000 in Virginia alone.
In New York, the epicenter of the country's coronavirus outbreak, schools provide three free meals each day. In Philadelphia, 53,000 were given out in just one day.
The numbers aren't as big locally, but the efforts are just as important.
"These kids depend on these meals," said Jim Gehlhoff, Food Services Coordinator for Portsmouth Public Schools. "[A van full of kids was] doing air hugs to my staff. It’s just fantastic to be able to help out the kids in the community."
An organization called No Kid Hungry set up a text line to find food distribution sites organized by school districts.
People living in Virginia should text "FOOD" or "COMIDA" to 877-877. North Carolina residents are asked to text "FOODNC" or "COMIDA" to 877-877.