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Home / Blog / Our Students’ Needs in the COVID-19 Crisis

Our Students’ Needs in the COVID-19 Crisis

Our Voice      March, 2020     

We’re just two weeks into the new COVID-19 shelter-in-place paradigm — still only at the beginning of many months of uncertainty.

What we do know is that this global pandemic has already become a disaster for the most vulnerable and underserved families in our communities: households without a steady income and kids who depend on their school for a hot meal. We’re heartened to see many in our community lean in to ask how they can support families as well as our educators who are now finding creative ways to ensure students keep learning.

Here are some visuals to help understand the extent of our students’ needs, as well as some ways you can help get resources to those who need it the most during these challenging times.

Maslow’s Hierarchy

Many families are most worried about taking care of basic needs: food, shelter and safety. Some were already living paycheck to paycheck and now they have been laid off. Or they are working an essential front-line job that now feels risky, and don’t have childcare. New government relief programs may eventually provide respite, but people need help right now. Plus, those who are undocumented or mixed status won’t be eligible for government assistance.

Figure 1. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Source: FutureLearn

⇒ How you can help: Donate to Oakland REACH Relief Fund, which is providing financial support directly to families


About 38,700 Oakland students qualify for free or reduced-price school lunches. As of 3/23, about 20,000 aka half of Oakland’s students who qualify for meals received their breakfasts and/or lunches through OUSD’s Grab and Go Free Meal Program, with the need doubling between every pick-up day. The other half are either receiving their meals through other sources, including through parents paying out of pocket, or not receiving their meals at all. Especially for these families who are most economically strapped, this isn’t sustainable and the #s of students who participate in the Grab and Go program will increase as the shelter-in-place drags on. And all 38,700 students do NOT have dinner provided. Some organizations have stepped in to help, sending families home with dinners and bags of groceries.

Figure 2. Students participating in OUSD’s Grab and Go free meal program over time

⇒ How you can help: Volunteer with or donate to Alameda County Community Food Bank, especially in the coming weeks as more and more families turn to these resources to meet basic food needs


Oakland needs to help 131 different school communities, spread out across the city, each with its unique set of needs. All these schools are trying to transition to this new remote learning landscape, which ideally would mean a device (e.g. Chromebook) and high-speed internet access for each child. Needless to say, many of Oakland’s low-income students of color lack these now-essential learning resources. Closing “Digital Divide” feels more imperative than ever.

Figure 3. Number of Schools

⇒ How you can help: Donate to TechExchange’s Tech for All campaign or Oakland Public Education Fund and OUSD’s joint rapid response fundraiser

We’re inspired to see our community come together to support our neighbors and families who are disproportionately affected by this pandemic. Our team is finding ways to pitch in and help – connecting those with resources to those who need them, providing extra capacity where needed, and convening educators virtually to learn new tools. Please don’t hesitate to reach out if you want to share an idea or three! Keep safe and healthy.

In service,

The Educate78 Team


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