When school buildings closed, the BVSD Food Services team immediately jumped into gear to continue providing students access to food without school being in session.
“We could have taken a very different route here. We could have said 6 weeks ago that it's no longer our task or we’re not to feed hungry children. But that was never a question,” says Stephen Meynhart, Operations Manager, BVSD Food Services.
Deciding not to feed kids was never a thought that crossed anyone’s mind. Instead, only one day after BVSD announced school closures, the team had come up with a plan to provide families with bags of fresh food twice a week at locations across the district.
The team, led by Director Chef Ann Cooper, spoke with community partners, including Impact on Education, Community Food Share and food companies across the area to get donations of food to pack the bags with. In addition, they packaged up all the bulk supplies of food they had stored at the district warehouse into family-sized portions.
“This is an all hands on deck situation, not just for the school district. For everyone,” says Carolyn Villa, District Manager, BVSD Food Services.
Depending on the day,, the bags are filled with dry and canned goods (beans, rice, pasta), along with fresh fruits and vegetables, healthy snacks, protein items (tuna, nut butters, yogurt, cheese sticks), and milk. Each bag contains at least 8 meals worth of food. To date, over 200,000 meals have been served to BVSD students and families.
While the bag distribution program was set up to serve those families in poverty, and receiving free and reduced lunch, anyone in need can pickup food without documentation.
“So this is helping families who live in poverty throughout the year, on free and reduced lunch. But it's also open to anyone who needs it,” says Villa.
So many more people are in need now due to the crisis and perhaps losing a job, who may not have completed the free and reduced lunch paperwork previously. The district did not want to exclude those people.
“I am so proud of our school district and all the people that are supporting our community, that are donating. The efforts that it’s taking to ensure that our families are getting fed,” says Ina Rodriguez-Myers, Principal at University Hill, one of the food distribution sites.
“Each bag of food is really a bag of security. As a parent, the absolute worst thing you could have to worry about is feeding your kids. So I think what we’re giving people is security,” says Villa.
Read more: Celebrate our School Lunch Heroes