During a typical summer, tens of thousands of students in North Texas are at risk of hunger. Without access to the free or reduced-price meals they get at school, nearly nine out of 10 Dallas students may not get a regular, nutritious meal each day. This year, the situation has been even more severe, with schools closed for months due to the coronavirus pandemic. It has been an incredible challenge that has required a robust response.
To help address the ongoing problem of child hunger, in 2013 the United Way of Metropolitan Dallas partnered with Baylor University’s Texas Hunger Initiative to launch the North Texas Summer and Supper Council. The Council supports a variety of Summer Meals and Supper Programs that provide millions of meals to children throughout Dallas. In 2019, the Council worked with more than two dozen groups who served more than 2.8 million meals to 55,000 children.
Unfortunately, children and their families are at greater risk of hunger this year, with schools closed, parents losing their jobs and families struggling to juggle work and childcare. When schools were suddenly shuttered after spring break, partnering agencies had to quickly ramp up summer meals programs.
NTXSSC began collectively collaborating with Texas and U.S. Departments of Agriculture to ensure summer meals programming could start earlier in the year. Meanwhile, meal providers like Dallas ISD rushed to develop and execute a plan to get meals to students and their families.
Julie Fletcher is the director of support services for DISD’s Food and Child Nutrition Services. When DISD schools closed in the spring, Julie and her colleagues worked quickly to enable the district to begin distributing meals as soon as possible. They reworked menus based on their current food inventory, reached out to vendors to place rush orders and identified key distribution sites.
Within a few weeks, DISD—along with other North Texas entities that provide summer meals—began providing emergency meal services. In a typical summer, students in the summer meals program receive meals and enjoy enrichment activities throughout the day. This year, to keep families and employees safe, the programs were switched to a “grab-and-go” format.
As of mid-August, DISD had served 10 million meals to Dallas families. And with the support of the North Texas Summer & Supper Council, the district is getting ready for a fall semester that will look a lot different than most years.
“We’ll be adapting a version of what we’re currently doing,” Julie said. “We’re looking at expanding sites so more families or students can walk or take the bus without having to drive. We’ll also change to an evening distribution to see if that helps parents, because we know they’re going to be busy with work and with teaching their kids.”
This year, the COVID-19 pandemic has created an unprecedented need for regular, nutritious meals. With your help, the North Texas Summer and Supper Council has been able to assist more children than ever before during this incredibly difficult time.
This article was published on: Aug 27, 2020