Volunteers spent the morning filling a bus with donated take-home meals for local school children. Photo courtesy of 412 Food Rescue.

During these uncertain times, Pittsburgh needs a hero. Today, Batman and a team of do-gooders heeded the call.

Actor Michael Keaton, a native of Robinson Township who played the caped crusader on the big screen in 1989, provided financial support for a bus stop meal distribution. The project is a collaboration between local nonprofits 412 Food Rescue, A+ Schools and the Latino Community Center.

Volunteers distributed 500 free meals at six different school bus stops in South Side and Hilltop neighborhoods for children who don’t have easy access to food provided by their school districts during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Rosamaria Cristello, executive director of the Latino Community Center, learned of a child in her community who had to walk almost an hour round-trip to get to and from his nearest school to pick up lunch.

“This is not realistic for many families,” she says. “I wanted to find a solution to help bring food closer to them.”

Cristello, 412 Food Rescue CEO Leah Lizarondo and A+ Schools Executive Director James Fogarty joined forces and mapped out an action plan in a week, with Allison Butka and Joyce Swope of Etna Print Circus offering the use of their decommissioned school bus, PriZilla the Print Bus, for deliveries. Local restaurants Bar Botanico, The Vandal and DiAnoia’s Eatery provided food for the meals, including soup and sandwiches.

Local restaurants donated meals to feed local school children. Photo courtesy of 412 Food Rescue.

It took about two hours to deliver the take-home meals today along a route dotted with city bus stops, easily accessible points for residents to walk to. Families were alerted to the bus drop-off via robocalls from A+ Schools. A team of 16 volunteers from the Latino Community Center were on hand to pass out meals and educational packets and to enforce social distancing guidelines.

Lizarondo says she was thinking about doing some kind of bus stop meal distribution as soon as she heard Pennsylvania schools were closing. Since today’s pilot run was successful, she hopes to continue the program at least once a week over the next two months, with other school districts throughout the area adopting the model. There is no official date set for the next event, but organizers are working to target areas with families in need. They are currently in talks with Duquesne City School District and Community Kitchen Pittsburgh.

Want to volunteer? Contact the Latino Community Center. Want to donate? Contact 412 Food Rescue.

Kristy Locklin is a North Hills-based writer. When she's not busy reporting, she enjoys watching horror movies and exploring Pittsburgh's craft beer scene.