When Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz order all public schools to close to help contain the spread of the novel coronavirus COVID-19, CKC and its client schools and nonprofits acted fast to make sure they continued feeding kids. CKC serves many charter schools classified as "severe need," with a majority of students qualifying for free and reduced-priced lunch. It would have been devastating for them - or any student - to go without school meals for two weeks.
Thankfully, we anticipated the closure mandate and placed a BIG food order with our distributor the week before. We were well-stocked to provide grab-and-go meals. Unknown, however, was how many client sites would offer meals and how many families would be able to pick them up.
We had a few long days and exchanged lots of phone calls and emails, but we helped our clients provide their families a total of nearly 100,000 meals in the first two weeks of school closures through 5-day meal bundles. CKC is now providing 7-day meal packs for students and also provides 7-day meal packs during schools' spring breaks. The once weekly pickups helps minimize contact between families and staff members and is more convenient for families as well.
Our schools worked tirelessly to contact their families and provide us meal counts while we strategized the logistics for meal assembly and distribution. Our team used 10-foot cafeteria tables and full sheet pans to compile meal bags in an assembly-line fashion at safe social distances. We provided the weekly meal bags for each student in bulk to schools, separating the cold items from the shelf-stable foods. When families arrive, school representatives hand each a grocery bag containing one bag of refrigerated items, cartons of milk and one bag of dry goods.
We applaud our schools for keeping families connected to their schools by continuing to serve their needs. Even with no time to plan, our schools had unbelievable participation in the grab-and-go meals and distributed all their food bags. Clearly, families need and desire the food.
Our schools get great gratification knowing their students are well fed. They also will see a nice bump in their federal reimbursements by providing these meals, which are reimbursed at a higher rate than meals served under the National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program. See our follow-up blog post on the difference that could make for your school.