Coronavirus Resources for Schools

Schools and Summer Meals-Prioritizing Child Nutrition During COVID

Contains resources from school districts and public health agencies.

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School district closures due to the COVID-19 health crisis puts millions of low-income California children at risk of hunger as a result of discontinued access to school breakfast and lunch programs. The need for meals has grown exponentially as the impact of the pandemic increases the financial burden on a broader group of families. Due to this need to re-prioritize the need for meal distribution, school districts, local government and community-based agencies may now serve emergency meals to children ages 18 and under at school and community-based sites through the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) and Seamless Summer Feeding Option (SSFO) of the National School Lunch Program. As California unemployment claims currently surpass 4 million, school districts should plan for a long recovery period and maximize available resources to assist their school communities, which includes continuing meal service through summer. Summer meals have always been a lifeline for the families that rely upon the nutrition provided by school and community programs and a much-needed financial offset for families struggling to make ends meet. This federal resource allows schools to build off their existing infrastructure, including retaining nutrition staff to keep working so they can support their own families. Schools are equipped and able to administer summer meals. Consistent access to healthy food in summer is always important for student well-being, but now with COVID and ongoing risk of student disconnection, offering meals through the summer is one important strategy for staying connected to students, especially vulnerable student groups, and ensuring they return ready in the fall. Providing meals through SSFO or SFSP gives school districts the opportunity to build and deepen their role as community hub not only feeding and connecting with kids, but also offering other resources such as supervision or distance learning resources until students come back for the next school year. Meal service provides a tangible and measurable way to address needs outlined in district LCAP/COVID Response plans. To maximize support for students and their families, district and county office leaders should: n Start a summer meal program, if an LEA has not operated a program in the past or served only meals for students in summer credit recovery programs. Collaboration with community partners, other districts or vendors can help mitigate financial and/or staffing barriers. n Expand meal service access including school sites and community sites such as libraries, public/affordable housing, and migrant education sites to reach students where they are. Many districts have added a food truck to serve hard-to-reach students and address family transportation or safety concerns while reducing operational costs associated with a physical site. n Commit to community partnerships. In addition to serving as trusted meal distribution sites, community partners can support district learning goals for students. For example, approximately 220 libraries statewide served as Lunch at the Library sites in 2019, providing a safe space for summer meals, technology access, literacy building and innovative enrichment programs for the entire family. As meal sites, libraries have seen year-over-year growth in meals served while keeping students' academic and social-emotional development on track. n Assess summertime barriers for families. It is crucial to assess the physical and logistical barriers as well as the overall appeal of your program that influence meal service participation. This includes transportation barriers, especially for those who rely on school-year bus service, or for students who lack transport or live in neighborhoods with walkability or safety issues. The availability of learning or enrichment activities is a key driver in meal program participation, making summer learning and nutrition programs integral partners. SCHOOLS AND SUMMER MEALS: Prioritizing Child Nutrition During COVID to Ensure Students Succeed and Thrive ASSOCIATION OF CALIFORNIA SCHOOL ADMINISTRATORS

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