On April 27th, the No Kid Hungry campaign hosted a virtual event on the pandemic’s impact on food insecurity, and how it intersects with race and class, as well as health, and educational inequities.
“Response, Recovery and the Impact on Children: A Community Conversation” featured speakers Elliott Gaskins, Alexandra Molina, Nonie Woolf, John B. King, Jr., Billy Shore, and Rebecca Rathburn.
Elliott Gaskins provided an overview of the No Kid Hungry campaign’s impact through the pandemic, and moderated a discussion with two of its local partners, Alexandra Molina and Nonie Woolf, to address the devastation of the last year and offer a closer look at our work in action.
John B. King, Jr. and Billy Shore followed with an enlightening conversation about the impact of advocacy on federal food programs, and the influence of historic systemic racism on education and food insecurity. The webinar concluded with Rebecca Rathburn, one of No Kid Hungry’s incredible Youth Ambassadors, who shared ways she has been able to help contribute in the face of a global pandemic.
Some highlights from the call included:
Our COVID-19 Impact:
- Emergency Granting: Since the pandemic began, the No Kid Hungry campaign has provided over $70 million in grants to help schools and community groups feed children. These grants support home-delivered meals, pop-up meal programs, school and community pantries, backpack programs, PPE, technical equipment, and other programs that reach children and families who have lost access to school meals.
- The coronavirus hit communities of color especially hard, leading to higher rates of illness and unemployment. With that in mind, we prioritized grants to schools and organizations serving Black, Latino, and Indigenous communities. 69% percent of our grants have gone to organizations working primarily in communities of color. Nearly one-third of our grants reached rural areas.
- Advocacy & Regulatory Understanding: On a national level, federal nutrition programs—school and out-of-school meals, SNAP, and WIC—are the front line of defense for families during disasters and economic downturns. Our advocacy efforts helped pass temporary flexibilities to support families receiving SNAP funds and the activation of Pandemic-EBT, which provides low-income families with the dollar value of lost school meals.
- We also successfully urged the USDA to implement and extend critical nationwide waivers that help kids and families access the food they need, in a way that works for their communities. Thanks to you, we are continuing to work with governors, city and state leaders, state agencies, and non-profit partners to ensure that these programs are implemented effectively and reach families who need them most.
- Strategic Assistance: We have developed resources to help families maneuver and sign up for benefits like SNAP and Pandemic-EBT, and are gathering information, tracking trends, offering guidance, and determining the best ways to push out best practices broadly.
- Public Awareness: With your support, we created and launched the No Kid Hungry Free Meals Finder. This interactive map has helped more than 230,000 families find free food distribution sites in their communities. We also expanded our summer meals texting line, which highlights nearby school meal sites with a simple zip code search.
- Monday Fund Campaign: This campaign is our all-out effort to support kids through this moment and beyond. The Monday Fund will deploy $100,000,000 to invest in schools and community-based organizations to feed children through this crisis, build resiliency in the years ahead and secure policies and solutions to strengthen the safety net for children.
Our Impact on the Ground
Alexandra Molina is the Director of Food & Nutrition Services for the McAllen Independent School District in Texas. The school district has been serving 15,000 meals to children daily since the pandemic began in March of 2020.
The McAllen Independent School District received two emergency grants from No Kid Hungry this year. These grants provided the district with the opportunity to purchase equipment like ice trays to keep meals and drinks cold when delivering to children along bus routes, as well as technology that will streamline processes and ensure long-term investment in the Food & Nutrition Services program.
Nonie Woolf is the Board Chair of FAST Blackfeet in Montana and addresses food insecurity within the Blackfeet Nation community. Before the pandemic, they were providing 4,400 pounds of food to people in need, but during the pandemic, and due to its detrimental effects, their average increased to 28,000 pounds. Two out of every three people within the Blackfeet Nation are food insecure. No Kid Hungry’s emergency granting provided the FAST Blackfeet with funds to support their food pantry, school district, and transportation van to ensure families are being fed.
Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, and Childhood Hunger
The deck is often stacked against our most vulnerable children; low-income children and children of color. This happens both inside and outside the classroom. Outside of the classroom, low-income children and children of color are more likely to face systemic factors of poverty; including hunger, housing insecurity, violence in the community, and a flawed criminal justice system. Within the classroom, low-income students and students of color are also less likely to receive a quality education, financial support, and mental health assistance.
Although 22 million kids are eligible for free or reduced-price school meals, only 12 million are receiving them. It is important for school districts to offer breakfast and lunch programs that are accessible and minimize stigma, and to make sure parents are receiving information about how to retrieve benefits for their children. The No Kid Hungry campaign focuses on implementing Breakfast After the Bell models of eating to boost school participation and reduce barriers to access, with effective models including Breakfast in the Classroom, Grab and Go to the Classroom, and Second Chance Breakfast.