Today we recognize School Lunch Hero Day! The 8th annual day of appreciation holds a more profound significance this year as foodservice teams work on the front lines during the COVID-19 crisis. Despite the pandemic, foodservice staff across the nation continue to show up each day for their communities to make sure every student and family has access to healthy food.
Foodservice staff work hard under normal circumstances. Before the pandemic, school meals could provide up to 50% of a students daily calories. Since the pandemic began, more than 30 million Americans have filed for unemployment. Food insecurity and lack of nutrition put people at higher risk of illness, and many other food programs have been suspended or lack the volunteers needed to keep operating.
Our school system is now providing more emergency meals than food banks. Our hope is that COVID-19 reminds people how critical schools are for each community’s food security – they are unsung heroes. In Contra Costa County, CA Mount Diablo Unified School District is serving 40,000 meals each week to children who are in need, no questions asked. Knowing that meals are waiting for pickup is a bright spot for many families, making daily life a little easier.
School foodservice teams jumped to action the day school closures began and have been working hard to build new systems to make sure meals can be accessible while keeping everyone safe. We need to continue to support them. Write thank you letters, connect them with safety supplies (e.g., masks), give to organizations that can provide food donations to help schools serve beyond meals reimbursed by government funding. Most importantly, we need to make sure we take care of those who take care of so many.
To all foodservice staff across the nation, THANK YOU. You are keeping families fed. You are ensuring that when schools are able to open again, students will be healthy and ready to learn. Most importantly, you are keeping a bright light shining in your communities. Your love and dedication for what you do does not go unnoticed. From the bottom of our hearts, thank you!
Our nonprofit’s #1 priority is to support school food heroes in their quests to increase real food access. Learn more about the incredible school leaders transforming their food programs here and a list of schools our COVID-19 efforts are supporting. You can donate to support our efforts here.