Zane Powles hauls huge rucksacks filled with packed school meals that weigh over 39 lbs and sets off on a nearly three-hour journey around the neighborhood every day.
Editor's note: We are re-sharing some of the best moments and most important stories of 2020. Although it was a difficult year for nearly all of us, there were also shining moments of light and signs of hope. This was one of them.
When grade school teacher Zane Powles heard of shutdowns due to the pandemic, he immediately thought of those students who relied on schools for their afternoon meals. The assistant headteacher of Western Primary School in Grimsby, England, immediately jumped into action and came up with a unique solution to ensuring his pupils wouldn’t go hungry. "My first thought was how are we going to get our children meals," he told Good Morning America. "We have vulnerable families that need help so we had to come up with a plan." His solution? Mapping out where students on free school lunches live and walking five miles a day to hand-deliver free school meals to them.
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
According to Independent, since the lockdown was enforced, Powles has been hauling huge rucksacks filled with packed school meals that weigh over 39 lbs—plus homework—for at least 78 students every day. Before setting off on the nearly three-hour journey around the neighborhood, he packs the meals that are prepared by the school's kitchen staff into several bags strapped to his arms, back, and chest. "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," he 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
The former soldier also uses these daily lunch runs to check in on how his students are doing amid the pandemic. After dropping off the packed lunch—which includes a sandwich, two pieces of fruit, chips, and dessert—on their doorsteps, Powles knocks on the door and waits on the pavement or in the garden until they are picked up by the students. "The kids are really happy to see me believe it or not until they see all the papers in my hands," he said of students' reaction to receiving homework along with their meals. "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
Powles explained that he came up with the idea after the school’s administration felt it wouldn't be practical to have families pick up the state-sponsored meals on campus. While he sets off on foot to deliver the meals, Headteacher Kim Leach and another teacher take turns to deliver an additional 25 lunches by car to who live further afield on a 15-mile round trip every day. "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," said Powles.
"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. "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 added. "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."
"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," Powles explained. "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," he said. "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.'— Good Morning Britain (@GMB) April 9, 2020
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