Food delivery a challenge for schools

Written by James Shea

Schools are facing unprecedented challenges of delivering food to students when many are at home and not in the classroom. A new report by GENYOUth, a national nonprofit dedicated to creating healthier school communities, surveyed 550 school nutrition professionals and found that massive school disruptions and record-level unemployment are putting 30 million American kids at risk for hunger.

Key findings:

  • Schools are a viable, reliable source of nutrition for children. As the financial sustainability of families continues to deteriorate, 58 percent of schools expect the need for school meals to stay the same or increase.
  • 100 percent say that schools continue to operate school meal programs, despite the fact that only 4 percent of students are offering full-week, in-person learning.
  • Schools are deploying multiple food delivery models to feed kids outside the cafeteria and often outside of the school building.
  • 70 percent are using curbside pick-up and
  • 57 percent are offering grab and go meals at school.
  • This has created an urgent need for unbudgeted equipment for safe milk and meal storage and transportation, as well as sanitation.

“Since the start of the pandemic, the number of food-insecure kids has increased 20 percent to one in four,” Alexis Glick, CEO of GENYOUth. “We are approaching Depression-era levels of hunger and the numbers are even worse for Black and Hispanic students. We need to do everything in our power to support, sustain and salute our frontline heroes feeding our nation’s kids in U.S. schools.”

New issue framing report: healthier school communities

The report was completed with the cooperation of the Midwest Dairy Council and in partnership with The School Superintendents Association, the National Dairy Council and the Urban School Food Alliance. It identifies the opportunities, trends, barriers and reasons why investments in youth wellness and healthier school communities are more important now than ever.

From the inextricable link between a student’s cognitive, physical, mental and emotional health, to the role schools play in fostering a wellness environment for all students to live full, productive lives, the report is based on the most current science about the connections between health, well-being and learning. It examines how far the nation has come since the passage of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act 10 year ago, highlighting the roles nutrition and physical activity play in learning.

The report also includes timely commentary from youth wellness advocates including Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Chief Medical Correspondent, CNN, who highlights the importance of developing healthy habits; and Dr. Rajiv Shah, President, The Rockefeller Foundation, who talks about the importance of “meeting the moment” to feed kids during COVID-19.

“As we continue to see record levels of COVID-19-driven hunger, joblessness and health-related inequities, children and families are faced with extraordinary challenges and our work in supporting them must continue,” said Dan Domenech, Executive Director, AASA, The School Superintendents Association.

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