Zane Powles, the assistant headteacher at Western Primary School, is making sure all his students stay well-fed while they learn from home due to school closures amid the coronavirus outbreak.
Powles has delivered up to 105 packed lunches to students in Grimsby, England, every weekday since the coronavirus crisis began. He packs the lunches, then loads them into bags that he carries military-style on a 5-mile route he plotted.
In a district where 4 out of 10 students receive free school meals, Powles wondered how the children would get meals while school is closed during the lockdown period.
“Our school is in a deprived area, as the government would say, socioeconomically deprived,” he said. “I thought, ‘right, what I would do to resolve some of that problem? I’d go around and deliver every single meal to them, every single day.’”
The deliveries give Powles the opportunity to check in with the children and make sure everything is okay at home. At some homes, he asks that all the children come out of the house, just to be sure each one is safe.
Lunches typically include a sandwich, chips, a piece of fruit, and a cookie. They also come with a potato for the family to cook. Without the free school lunch, Powles said, “Some of our children probably won’t get a decent meal.”
“A lot of the people that live around our school are single-parent families, in difficult circumstances. They maybe got 3, 4 really young children, haven’t got a job. Our social services are supporting them.”
Low-income families may struggle to homeschool their children because although schools are supporting students online with remote learning, some families cannot afford gas or electricity, much less an internet bill.
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
The families he delivers to look forward to Powles’ daily visits. Some have hung thank you messages in their windows.
One student thanked his teacher by saying, “You’ve nearly saved the world by giving people packed lunches and keeping them alive.”
This Deputy Headteacher walks five miles a day, delivering packed lunches to his pupils to make sure they still get a school dinner 🥪🚶🏻♂️👋🏻 pic.twitter.com/ulOH0qgVrK— BBC East Yorks and Lincs (@looknorthBBC) April 7, 2020
But Powles is modest and says he’s just doing his job. “…I’m just doing my job but in a different way that I never expected to, really. My job is the welfare of children and make sure they’re safe, and that’s all I’m doing” he said.
Powles says school officials, himself included, need to figure out how to support each family individually as the community navigates a new system while their school remains closed.
“Our motto is ‘the school that cares.’ And that’s something we definitely do. We care so much about our children and make sure their welfare is our priority all of the time,” he said.
Powles is a triathlete who became a teacher after serving in the armed forces. He is “dad to three amazing young men” and won Primary School Teacher of the Year in 2019.
Although Powles is “a bit embarrassed and overwhelmed” by all the attention, it’s safe to say 2019’s Primary School Teacher of the Year will claim the title two years in a row.
My temporary fame has peaked today. I am now on the PJ Mask Facebook page as the national hero. Not only that...I have been given Catboy stripes.— Zane (@zaneyteacher) April 16, 2020
Now I have made it!😊 pic.twitter.com/SGq37g3sQy