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A food service worker packages food for students

Urban School Food Alliance Nourishes Communities Amid COVID-19

COVID-19 Project Overview

More than 30 million kids in the U.S. rely on the National School Lunch Program for the nourishment they need to learn and thrive. For children from low-income families, up to half of their daily calories are consumed through school meals. So when COVID-19 forced nearly 100,000 schools across the country to close their doors, many were left without enough nutritious food to eat.

To combat hunger during the pandemic, the Urban School Food Alliance launched a Student Emergency Food Access Fund that is helping school districts across the country distribute meals to students and their families while keeping staff safe.

By providing meals, this program alleviates a lot of the weight on parents’ shoulders. We can concentrate on putting things back together like getting jobs, shelter and more.

Parent of a Child in Orange County Public Schools

How it Helps

Created by experienced school food service professionals in 2012, the Urban School Food Alliance works to improve the quality of school food while decreasing costs and environmental impact. The nonprofit leverages its knowledge and purchasing power to drive change across twelve of the country’s largest districts, representing more than three million students.

The alliance team is putting its expertise to use during the COVID-19 crisis to keep children nourished, further its mission, and prepare to meet the lasting needs of communities in the pandemic’s aftermath. The Student Emergency Food Access Fund supports students and their families in the following ways:

  • Transportation: The fund helps organizations rent refrigerated trucks and other equipment to ensure food can be safely transported and distributed to families unable to pick up meals, including those who are homeless.
  • Staff support: It covers hiring costs, overtime pay, and personal protective equipment.
  • Grab-and-go models: The fund provides resources to ensure meals can be individually packaged and are safe to consume when not eaten immediately.
  • Caregiver meals: Guardians are eligible to receive meals too, as they work to support their children.

Supporting Food Service Workers on the Front Lines

In addition to feeding children, schools also employ thousands of essential food service workers and spend nearly $800 million annually in local food, according to the USDA Farm to School Census. The Student Emergency Food Access Fund is helping to provide work for many food service workers and ensure schools can continue to support their local agricultural economy.

Throughout the pandemic, underserved communities continue to bear the brunt of food supply chain disruptions and resource inequities. But by supporting the school meal infrastructure, the Urban School Food Alliance is helping drive forward whole-community health and resilience.

Foundation Project Lead