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Millions of American school-age children rely on school meals for consistent access to nutritious food. Typically, when schools let out for the summer, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) summer meals programs step in to provide food to children who need assistance during the academic year.
However, this spring the global COVID-19 crisis presented a new problem: After mid-semester disruptions, schools across the country went remote, and millions of American students potentially lost access to consistent meals.
While a formidable task, BCHP was able to expand a program that had served 4,000 kids to more than 270,000 because of our collaboration with partners like the USDA, McLane Global, PepsiCo Food for Good and Chartwells. Additionally, the delivery of millions of meals directly to homes would not have been possible without the enthusiastic participation of logistics providers like UPS.
For context, while traditional summer meals programs ensure that millions of kids retain access to food during the summer, these efforts pose challenges for rural students and their families, who may lack the transportation necessary to travel to the meal program site or grocery store.
In response to the challenges faced by rural students, in the summer of 2019, our team at BCHP partnered with the USDA to conduct a three-year demonstration program to deliver summer meal boxes to children 18 and younger in rural areas. In its first summer, the program delivered 500,000 meals to 4,000 children in rural Texas towns.
After a successful first summer, our team at BCHP was ready to make modifications to the program and relaunch in Texas, New Mexico and Alaska for the summer of 2020.
Then coronavirus hit. But many of these lessons ultimately shaped our response to this unprecedented challenge.
While originally planned as a summer meals program, school closings tied to COVID-19 created an urgent and immediate need. We were able to develop and deploy the program months in advance — and at a far greater scale.
UPS brought the logistics expertise and operational capabilities that allowed the program to rapidly expand in just six weeks and then continue to grow to feed an increasing number of children.
For many of the children in rural areas, the meal kits were their only source of food. By using consolidation techniques and customized load plans, UPS was able to create efficiencies that kept meal kits moving quickly to reach the kids.
As the Emergency Meals-to-You program closed out at the end of the summer, BCHP and the USDA had provided 38,783,860 meals to 270,488 children in 44 states and Puerto Rico.
UPS and other shipping carriers helped deliver these meals to homes in remote Alaskan towns, children on the islands of Puerto Rico and Hawaii, Native tribes living at the bottom of the Grand Canyon and children from coast to coast.
Amid our preparations for the third summer of MTY in the summer of 2021, we continue to look for innovative solutions as we partner with diverse organizations to serve America’s children.
It will be months — if not years — before we fully understand the impact of COVID-19 on food security and poverty. But partnerships like that between BCHP, USDA and UPS are indicative of the ways multi-sector collaborations can help provide consistent provision of basic necessities to millions of families.
If we work together, we will end hunger.
All photos courtesy Baylor Collaborative on Hunger and Poverty.
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