By Gabriel Stovall

Once Puerto Rico’s schools officially closed for the year, thanks to the new coronavirus outbreak, the island’s department of education wanted to make sure its remaining food didn’t go to waste.

“With the closing of 800 schools across the island, the Department of Education reached out to organizations like Send Relief to provide food to those who were struggling amid the COVID-19 crisis,” said Jonathan Santiago, director of Send Relief Puerto Rico.

Volunteers are hard at work preparing food donations that will go to churches in Puerto Rico for mass distribution.

It was a nod to an already-positive relationship between the school system and Send Relief—mostly thanks to compassion ministry efforts on the island during a recent rash of earthquakes, not to mention ongoing efforts to provide relief to parts of Puerto Rico still rebuilding from Hurricane Maria in 2017.

On Thursday and Friday, April 9-10, the Send Relief team worked with pastors and churches to get the perishable food items—4,200 meals’ worth—from the schools into the hands families struggling to put food on the table. That’s in addition to another large food distribution that took place Monday and Tuesday, April 20-21, where an estimated 21,000 meals were given to 35 churches.

The outreach is definitely having a positive effect on the people served by the island’s churches and pastors. A church planter shared a photo of Abraham Romero and his daughter, both smiling brightly while standing next to a table of food.

Donning masks, Send Relief volunteers load trucks with food to be distributed to families in need during the most recent, large-scale outreach. In all, tens of thousands of meals were distributed to families in two days.

“Thank you so much for thinking of me and my daughter,” Romero said of the gift of food.

It’s the kind of response that makes such an arduous task worthwhile. The kindness of organizations, churches and individuals is reaching every kind of family.

“Families where both parents are out of their job, single moms not being able to make ends meet, children who rely on school cafeterias for their meals,” Santiago said. “People who are self-employed, elderly and bed bound, so many are struggling. This food provided by the Department of Education allows Send Relief the opportunity to meet many needs and change lives.”