Whether you need a device or internet access, there are plenty of places to get support in NYC. Photo by Sara M.
Whether you need a device or internet access, there are plenty of places to get support in NYC. Photo by Sara M.

Free Resources for NYC Families During Coronavirus: Meals, Internet, Books, and More

To say the coronavirus pandemic has upended life as we know it would be an understatement. Out are playgrounds and playdates; in are days split between homeschooling and trying to maintain some semblance of a home office. But, in a time of crisis, it's been uplifting to see all the FREE resources for NYC families, proving that though we can't get any closer to one another than a social distancing appropriate six feet, we're still all in this together.

Read on for help with everything from your homeschool set up to your next hot meal or much-needed mental health break. We've got more than 15 FREE resources for NYC families trying to weather the COVID-19 crisis.


Get printables and other remote-learning resource materials from the DOE. Photo by the author

FREE Resources From NYC's Department of Education

Internet-Enabled Devices
With its turn toward distance learning taking effect this week, the NYC DOE is working hard to ensure any students who need a device to participate in online classes have one. To that end, it's distributing 300,000 internet-enabled iPads to students city-wide. Request one online, and a DOE rep will reach out with details for pick up. Note that students demonstrating the greatest need get priority, all devices must be returned, and there is a one device limit per student.

Regional Enrichment Centers
Children of health care providers, first responders, or key transit workers are eligible to enroll in a Regional Enrichment Center, where they will receive support with distance learning, plus a full day of care and three hot meals daily. Regional Enrichment Centers are located in all five boroughs, and placement is based on parents' home or work address. Each center is staffed by DOE employees or the DOE's community partners. Class sizes are intentionally small, with no more than nine students, and social distancing protocols are followed. The DOE hopes to extend the service to children of additional essential service workers as well as children living in shelters at a later date. Enroll by filling out this intake form.

Learn at Home Resources
Beyond the support you've likely already received from your child's teacher and school, the DOE has a list of age-appropriate resources by grade on its website.

RELATED: The Realistic Guide to Homeschooling for Busy Parents


Pick-up three grab-and-go meals a day at 400 DOE buildings across NYC. Photo courtesy of the NYC DOE

FREE Meals in NYC

School Food
Meals are distributed at more than 400 DOE buildings throughout the five boroughs. Each student can pick up three grab-and-go meals every weekday. Parents may also pick up meals for their kids, and all three meals can be picked up in a single trip. No registration, documentation, or ID is required. Non-DOE students can also receive meals.

Food Banks and Restaurants Offering Help
If your family is experiencing food insecurity, the Food Bank for New York City is also offering grab-and-go meals and pantry packages at several locations. Many local restaurants have opened their doors to feed kids free of charge, too. Food Hub NYC maintains a list of local businesses willing to lend a hand.

RELATED: Coronavirus Guide: 100s of Activities and Resources for Parents


Need Wi-Fi? Many companies in NYC are offering free service to households with students. Photo by Sara M.

FREE Internet in NYC

Spectrum is offering FREE broadband and Wi-Fi access to households with students in kindergarten through college who do not already have a Spectrum account. To enroll, call 1-844-488-8395. Installation fees are waived for any homes with students. Additionally, the company has vowed not to cut off service to residential and small business customers who are unable to pay their bills because of the coronavirus.

Comcast is offering its Internet Essentials Package for FREE for two months to all new customers. In addition, it's increased the speed of the service to 25 Mbps, up from its usual 12.

Customers who rely on their wireless providers for internet access will be happy to know T-Mobile, Sprint, Verizon, and AT&T are helping customers, too, by lifting data caps, waiving overage fees, or vowing not to disconnect service during this time.

FREE Books from NYC Libraries

While all three major local library systems have shuttered their physical branches, there are tons of FREE online resources to access.

The New York Public Library has a dedicated resource page for kids and families and has put more than 300,000 titles online for download. While you need a library card to access most of them, it's FREE and easy to apply online.

The Brooklyn Public Library is allowing access to more than 400,000 titles, which can be downloaded to popular e-reader apps. Don't know what to read? Check out its BookMatch service, but beware, there's a backlog for this service that provides a librarian-curated list of recommendations.

The Queens Public Library offers tons of online resources, including e-books, magazines, and even streaming storytimes.

FREE Mental Health Resources

Helpline
New York City's Office of Mental Health has established an Emotional Support Line. Staffed by volunteers, including mental health pros, you can reach help by calling: 1-844-863-9314.

NYC Well
Another city resource, NYC Well isn't coronavirus-specific, but it offers a wealth of support for mental health challenges, including its own helpline, plus options to chat or text with crisis prevention pros. There's also a collection of mental-health helping apps, plus links to help you find more city resources no matter the problem you're facing.

Child Mind Institute
This local org has a series of digital resources to help families. It hosts Facebook Live videos twice daily (10am and 4:30pm), which provide tips and answer questions about parenting through the pandemic. More resources can be found via its Instagram page, plus it's offering remote evaluations, telemedicine visits, and phone consultations for dealing with behavioral changes.

FREE Physical Health Resources

The YMCA of Greater New York has a jam-packed resource page with everything from at-home workouts to meditation videos to help you navigate the new normal and bust some stress in the process.

FREE Rides in NYC

While use of public transit should be reserved for procuring essential services, the MTA is allowing fare-free rides on local buses. You must board from the back of the bus to give drivers their distance and plan to maintain a safe distance from fellow riders once you're on board, too.

RELATED: Best Virtual Events: Concerts, Storytimes, and Classes To Stream from Home this Week

Take a break from the regular schoolday courses and check out Lunch Doodles with Mo! Photo by the author

And When You Need a Break...

Wander over to our new Poppins@Home page, where we've rounded up tons of learn-at-home resources. Whether you want to join Lunch Doodles with Mo, or take a live healthy cooking class, let our curated selection of content creators take over the creativity for a bit while you give yourself a mental break.

Got more resources we should share with our community? Let us know, by emailing nyc@mommypoppins.com.

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