The headlines tell the story: hunger and food insecurity are on the rise because of the coronavirus. According to hunger-relief organization Feeding America, more than 50 million people, and a potential 17 million children, may experience food insecurity in 2020, due to the pandemic. Before COVID-19, more than 10 million children lived in food-insecure households.
School meals are a critical stopgap measure for childhood hunger. Foodservice programs across the country have overcome major hurdles all year to continue feeding kids during distance and hybrid learning as well as in school, abiding by social distancing protocols.
The holidays are supposed to be “merry and bright,” a time of “cheer,” and the “most wonderful time of the year.” It’s not for many kids because they may not know when they’ll have their next meal.
As you send students on their way for holiday break, don’t send them away hungry!
We recently learned USDA is allowing state agencies to consider schools’ appeals to provide students with more than a 7-day meal pack for the holiday break. That’s good news for kids and could bring in extra revenues for your foodservice program.
Processes likely vary from state to state but according to the Minnesota Department of Education:
USDA is allowing state agencies to consider on a case-by-case basis exemptions of more than one-week bulk meal distribution, and MDE has developed a protocol for an exemption request. If sponsors (schools) have a temporary need to provide bulk meals to students for a period greater than seven days, the sponsor must submit a written request to our office via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Sponsors should include in the request the proposed menu for all meals that will be packed together, the rationale or description of the limiting factors that would preclude a 7-day meal (or less) distribution, describe the proposed meal distribution method, and identify how challenges such as meal preparation and temperature control for perishable products will be met by the typical family. MDE will review the request to ensure that the plan meets child nutrition program criteria and aligns with program intent as closely as possible.
Check with your state’s governing agency to find out how you can provide meals for more than 7 days into the holiday break. Using any number of shelf-stable food items that are generally available from distributors, you could extend meals into January, depending on when you leave on break.
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