Make sure kids can eat by keeping school heroes safe

In less than 2 weeks, we’ve helped half a million meals be served safely to low-income and suddenly no-income families through our new Protect School Heroes initiative.

Since we deployed this Protect School Heroes initiative, we’ve already helped half a million meals be served safely to low-income and suddenly no-income families.   

As the COVID-19 crisis continues, schools across the country have become de facto food banks for families in need of healthy, nutritious meals. The economic impacts of the shelter-in-place orders are multiplying, and school foodservice programs are experiencing increased demand from families across California. While schools across the country are closed—some for the remainder of the school year—many school kitchens remain open because they are a lifeline for the 29.7 million kids and their families who depend on well-balanced and nutritious meals. 

Without these meals, many families would be faced with having to choose between going hungry and keeping bills paid. Over 10 million Americans have filed for unemployment since nationwide physical distancing and shelter-in-place orders have gone into effect. The Kaiser Family Foundation’s poll found that four out of ten Americans report losing their job or work-related income due to the  #COVID19 crisis. For thousands of parents, knowing that their children have continued access to healthy food provides a small amount of relief during these uncertain times. 

In each state, there’s a small army of dedicated workers who are keeping these kids fed and nourished. They include farmers, farmworkers, truckers, distributors, delivery workers, warehouse packers, administrators, custodians, chefs, school foodservice professionals, and volunteers – all who make school meals happen. Those on the frontlines serving these school meals are at a higher risk of coronavirus infection. And, like so many people who comprise the essential workforce, these workers are experiencing shortages of protective gear.

What can we do?

To help stop the spread, Eat REAL is launching a new program to equip these foodservice workers with protective face masks. Our “Protect School Workers” initiative sources and distributes reusable (non-N-95) masks to foodservice professionals to promote safe food distribution and worker protections. Additionally, we provide health safety information like guides and tools. 

From medical workers to school food service providers, we’re all in uncharted territory when it comes to this pandemic, so it’s crucial to have the proper tools and resources in place to promote safe behavior. Next up, on Monday, we’ll officially announce our Protect School Heroes Initiative, including videos featuring Eat REAL’s Chief Pediatrician, Dr. Greene, who shares Mask 101 tips for all essential workers. 

Which schools are included?

Initially, we were focusing the program in Northern California. That said, schools throughout all of California and the nation are submitting new requests every day.

What’s the impact?

The program has been underway since March 22nd. We’ve already deployed critical health safety guidance and sent almost 2000 masks to volunteers and workers across eight school districts representing 435 schools serving 345,400 meals each week to low-income families during this crisis. Each meal helps a child be better nourished with a boosted immune system so they can be more resilient during this crisis as a result. Soon we’ll all know someone who is going through a financial crunch and needs some extra help. While the federal government is doing what they can, community safety nets like schools will continue to be an anchor for communities.

Who are we partnering with?

We’ve also received financial support from 96 donors who supported our gofundme charity fundraising campaign. In addition to providing masks and videos, Eat REAL is collaborating with Lunch Assist, the Center for Ecoliteracy, and Nutritionist/Translator Paloma Perez Bertrand on additional educational materials that promote safe foodservice practices and precautions for school staff to follow while serving meals under these circumstances.

How can I help?

Share this good news! Please share this information. You can contact us for more quotes, stories, videos, etc. and use your storytelling superpowers to share this positive news. sarah@eatreal.org 

Share the Mask 101 videos on Monday broadly – they’re for all essential workers and anyone who wears a mask! 

We want to send out masks for these workers and volunteers ASAP so we are finding sponsors and more donors. Help us deliver masks ASAP. With your help, we can support 210,250 more meals to be safely served next week! Encourage people to donate here to support Eat REAL. We had 11 more school districts yesterday submit requests representing 113 schools. And we know there are at least 20 more who will ask by next week. We are looking for individuals, donors, and companies who want to support these immediate requests and this initiative.  

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