Schools are out for the semester due to the global pandemic. And if you’re a student, or the parent of a student, whose only worry is what to do with all your free time, then consider yourself very lucky. Unfortunately, the sad reality is there are a lot of students out there who are worried about where their next meal is going to come from because many of them live in poverty and rely on the meals provided at school to see them through the day.
When Zane Powles heard that the schools were shutting down because of the pandemic, he immediately began to worry about these students who rely on the afternoon meals provided by their school.
Powles, who is an assistant headteacher of Western Primary School in Grimsby, England, knew that he had to do something. And the result was a selfless act of kindness that we all could learn a lesson from.
As he shared with Good Morning America, “My first thought was how are we going to get our children meals. We have vulnerable families that need help so we had to come up with a plan.”
The solution that he came up with was to map out where each of the students who rely on free school lunches live, and then walk the five miles in order to hand-deliver them their free school meals.
Assistant headteacher @zaneyteacher at Western primary school in Grimsby walks over five miles every day to deliver school meals to scores of children. #HOC19 #COVIDー19 #COVID19 #StayAtHome #StaySafe #LocalHeroes "What a HERO" https://t.co/4qm8HCFZWU pic.twitter.com/soWo14HV2H
— Heroes Of Covid-19 (@HeroesOfCovid19) April 9, 2020
The Independent reported that since the lockdown was put in place, Powles has been busy. Every single day, this man fills up large rucksacks full of pre-packed school lunches. They weigh more than 39 pounds. In addition, he also delivers homework to the roughly 78 students on his route. He straps the sacks to back, arms, and chest, then sets off a three-hour journey around to all the students’ homes.
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“By the end of this week, I’ll have walked over a hundred miles. I’m just glad I’m able to step up and do my part,” Powles said.
What’s so extraordinary about this, is that these kids aren’t just getting lunch, but a really clear message that they are important and someone cares. That lasts forever. 👏👏 @zaneyteacher https://t.co/vYPEE5QzkG
— Maria Turley (@MariaConyard) April 9, 2020
Powles is a former soldier. During his daily lunch runs, he makes sure to check in on his students to make sure they’re doing well during the pandemic. Once he drops off the meal – which includes a sandwich, two pieces of fruit, chips, and dessert – on the doorstep, Powles will knock on the door then wait at a distance on the sidewalk to make sure that the students pick up their food.
As he said, joking about the homework they receive in addition to their meals, “The kids are really happy to see me believe it or not until they see all the papers in my hands. It’s great because I can make sure all our families are okay and keep that connection to school for the kids.”
#Yarborough During our patrols today we paid a welfare visit to Western Primary school. As we left we met @zaneyteacher who was just returning from his daily 5+ mile walk where he delivers lunches to pupils in lockdown as well as extra school work when they need it 👍 #TopEffort pic.twitter.com/TCSwK0PFtd
— PCSO Andy Whittaker (@PCSOAndyW) April 15, 2020
As Powles explained, his idea was prompted after a discussion with the school’s administration, who felt that it wasn’t practical to have families show up on campus to collect their state-sponsored lunches. While Powles does his deliveries all on foot, another teacher, as well as Headteacher Kim Leach, both do an additional 75 meal deliveries by car to the students who live further outside the area – resulting in a daily 15-mile round trip.
Powles said, “The parents and children come to the window or the door to wave and say hello, some of the parents want to have a little chat – I think I’m the only adult contact they get to talk to some days.”
Millions of people have seen him delivering school meals on foot in Grimsby. @peter_levy caught up with @zaneyteacher to ask him why he and his school were so determined to help. pic.twitter.com/wVHNYkEYtS
— BBC East Yorks and Lincs (@looknorthBBC) April 15, 2020
“One of my students rushed to the door with his parents the other day and goes, ‘Mr. Powles is here, he’s saved the world,’ which was lovely to hear. You can just tell how much this means to the parents and children. It’s written on their faces,” he revealed.
Powles added, “I’m usually quite a private person, so all the attention is kind of embarrassing, but we’re all just doing our job – the welfare of our students is our top priority and we’re just doing the best we can.”
He also stated, “It’s a big team effort for sure. I look like I’m doing the donkey work, but it really isn’t just me, the other teachers also drive to deliver meals to children who live further away, we call the families up every week to make sure they’re doing okay, we prepare and pack the lunches together every single day.”
— Channel 5 News (@5_News) April 16, 2020
“Quite a lot of the families are struggling – they don’t want to drag their kids out to the shop, some of them are scared to leave their house. So I’m 100 percent happy to help and be there for them,” he explained.
Powles also mentioned, “I think it also gives them a sense of normalcy to see me every day. Of course, normal for them is coming to school every day, seeing me and their friends and other teachers – so having me come to see them might be reassuring. Our school tagline is ‘The School That Cares,’ and we really do care about our children, we will do almost anything for them.”
'If I can help them stay in their house, I'll do anything I can.'
Assistant Head Teacher, Zane Powles, is quite literally going the extra mile to help families during lockdown. He walks five miles every day to deliver almost 100 lunches to students at home. 👏 pic.twitter.com/kHDtKKomDH
— Good Morning Britain (@GMB) April 9, 2020
That is truly incredible – and let it be a reminder to all of us how much of a difference a little kindness can make in the lives of others.
Anastasia is an American writer and journalist living in Dublin, Ireland. Her Twitter is @AnastasiaArell5.