School Nutrition Directors Feed Communities Through the Pandemic

By Madison Morse for FoodTank

School nutrition directors across the United States are finding new solutions to ensure students receive uninterrupted meal service.

Thirty million children in the U.S. rely on school for at least one of their daily meals and as a result of the pandemic, this figure is growing, according to a report from Save the Children. But an audit conducted by Burbio finds that over 30 percent of U.S. students are attending class entirely online during the 2020-21 school year, making food distribution more challenging.

With the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) extension of the National Waiver to Allow Meal Pattern Flexibility in the Child Nutrition Program, individual states now have the ability to grant free meals to all students for the 2020-21 school year. This extension both increases the number of students covered under free meals and gives school districts more flexibility around meal composition and distribution.

But schools are facing logistical challenges to meet the increasing demand and distribute the meals as efficiently as possible.

In Bridgeton, New Jersey, students have the option of attending classes in person or from home. “Trying to solve the labor involved with fulfilling these needs is definitely a huge challenge for us,” Warren DeShields, Director of Food Services at Bridgeton Public Schools, tells Food Tank.

Despite this, schools are learning how to reach their students and ensure they receive the food they need. “While many systemic issues have been highlighted… districts are also finding innovative solutions,” Morgan McGhee, FoodCorps’ Director of School Nutrition Leadership, tells Food Tank.