Getting Kids Fed While School is Out: The Critical Role of Affordable Housing Partners
Monday, March 23, 2020
by: Jennifer Peck

Section: From Contributors


Jennifer Peck, President & CEO, Partnership for Children and Youth



It goes without saying that our school system is dealing with enormous and daunting challenges right now with the pandemic we are experiencing. I am watching this intently both as a parent of a high school student, and as a nonprofit leader in the public education world figuring on how to pivot our work to support our most vulnerable kids and families.
It goes without saying that our school system is dealing with enormous and daunting challenges right now with the pandemic we are experiencing.  I am watching this intently both as a parent of a high school student, and as a nonprofit leader in the public education world figuring on how to pivot our work to support our most vulnerable kids and families.   

As a parent, I see how challenged my own district is with keeping kids connected to learning and how carefully they have to manage things like uneven access to technology for online learning.  They also have to figure out how to manage access to the wide range of services schools provide beyond instruction – such as health and mental health care through our school-based health centers and community schools and of course, school meals on which so many kids depend.

I have been incredibly impressed with how quickly our district got a number of school sites opened as meal distribution sites and consistent communication about how and where to pick up those meals.  However, districts don’t have to tackle this particular task completely on their own. Many school systems aren’t aware that our public and affordable housing organizations can be meal distribution partners, and under the current circumstances, this is an option that should be heavily utilized in communities everywhere.

Many of our most vulnerable kids live in subsidized housing environments and likely rely on school meals.  As we compel everyone to stay put for personal and public health reasons, it only makes sense that housing agencies serve meals to kids where they are, so that transport to school or other sites is less necessary, and to avoid dangers of community spread of the coronavirus.  Partnership for Children and Youth wrote a brief last year on the role of housing agencies and the federal meal programs, and this opportunity has become more important than we ever imagined.  

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Summer Food Service Program and Child and Adult Care Food Programs enable schools, as well as city, county, tribal, and nonprofit agencies to serve free, healthy meals to youth ages 18 and under in low-income neighborhoods when school is out of session.  Agencies are reimbursed for the meals through USDA, and the programs are typically administered by a State Education Agency. The meals they typically serve are the after school snack and supper programs and the summer lunch program. Eligible low-income sites are those in which at least 50% of students who reside in the area are eligible for free or reduced-price meals.  Already, many nonprofit or city-run afterschool and summer program providers partner with LEA’s to provide meals at alternative sites, and while most nonprofit housing organizations are similarly eligible to serve meals, they are usually not considered as partners in this endeavor. Now, they must be. 

All of us are searching for silver linings during this very difficult time.  One of them certainly will be the new and creative partnerships we establish in order to support one another and our communities.  We’ll need to be very intentional about sustaining those relationships once we get to the other side of this.
Post a Comment

Name
Email
Comment