Meal programs are getting nutritious food to children ages 1 to 18 in school districts statewide thanks to dedicated school nutrition professionals around the state with the support and partnership of Oregon Department of Education Child Nutrition Programs.
According to No Kid Hungry, one in six American children faces hunger and three out of four teachers report regularly seeing hungry kids in their classrooms. Oregon ranks especially high in food insecurity for youth. When school lets out unexpectedly for something like COVID-19, it poses potential problems for many students who depend on school meals.
That’s why many school districts are now providing drive up or walk up, “grab-and-go” meals at selected school sites for all youth from 1 to 18 years old at no cost, regardless of income. These meals meet strict regulations for nutrition and are provided at no charge, with no need to sign up or show identification. Some school districts are even delivering meals to children through their bus routes. This way of distributing meals has created a new set of logistical challenges in keeping food, especially milk and dairy products, fresh.
Seeing this immediate need, the ODNC Youth Wellness team quickly created a program on behalf of Oregon dairy producers and processors to provide portable coolers to support the new meal programs. 200 portable coolers were shipped across the state to help 32 school districts keep milk cold for grab and go meals as well as meals delivered on bus routes. “The coolers are helping us to serve safer meals to our kids by keeping the cold and warm things separate,” says Cheryl Davis, head cook for Spray School District.
As closures were announced for the continuation of the school year, and unemployment numbers skyrocket, these grab-and-go programs continue to grow. Nutrition directors in Oregon and across the country anticipate the numbers will continue to rise as households are affected more long term and consume their existing and emergency food supplies.
Check out a meal site near you, and help spread the word on your social media accounts and in your community to help families with kids and teens ages 1 to 18.
Find a list compiled by Partners for a Hunger Free Oregon at this link, or call 211 for more information.
Portland Public Schools distributing meals at 15 schools, KPTV April 20