March 26, 2020
In response to community mitigation measures to slow the spread of the virus COVID-19, school districts throughout California have closed and communities are issuing shelter-in-place orders asking people to stay home. The nationwide restrictions are unprecedented, and for the millions of children and families who rely on free school-provided meals for nourishment, providing easy-to-find information on where to access free meals could make all the difference, helping to ensure children are nourished and able to go to bed full.
To provide California families, as well as our partners in education and nutrition, with a comprehensive, aggregated list of school sites with free meals for children throughout the state, Dairy Council of California, in partnership with California Milk Processor Board and California State Senator Dr. Richard Pan, created HealthyEating.org/SchoolMeals, a landing page that allows users to self-navigate and easily find the closest participating meal-to-go service site to their home.
“During these challenging times, millions of children and their families living in California communities will need support and access to nutritious food,” said Shannan Young, Program Director of Food Access at Dairy Council of California. “By equipping families with the information to locate free meals provided through school food service, we hope to empower them to take advantage of these meal programs so that their kids can be nourished.”
Titled School Meal Sites Providing Free Meals for Children Throughout California, the landing page is intended to serve as a go-to resource for up-to-date food service locations throughout California to centralize information and eliminate confusion on where families can go to access free food for their children. School Nutrition Services staff are working tirelessly to provide nourishing meals to students impacted by school closures. Considered an essential service, school nutrition services will remain open even with shelter-in-place orders.
“Children are the heart of families and our most vulnerable population,” said Steve James, Executive Director of the California Milk Processor Board and visionary leader of got milk?. “Beyond the invaluable loss of instructional time, school closures remove an essential safety net for children who rely on free school-provided meals as a key access point to nutritious foods including fresh dairy milk, fruit and vegetables, which are essential to good health. By broadcasting the availability of free, nutritious school meals throughout California, we can mitigate the uncertainty families may feel and help to ensure no child goes without nourishment.”
Closing schools across the state is a measure needed to keep all members of the school community safe—students, staff, families and visitors—while protecting those who are most vulnerable to severe illness and allowing the health care system to prepare resources to take care of severely ill patients. Fortunately, California school districts have rallied and risen to the occasion by providing measures to help alleviate the more severe consequences.
“Ensuring all children have access to food is a high priority,” said Dr. Richard Pan, State Senator representing the Sacramento area. “No child should go to bed hungry. Through collaboration with partners committed to improving the health of children and California communities, we can work to give children access to nutritious foods during this challenging time.”
A nutrition education organization, Dairy Council of California remains committed to elevating the health of children and families through nutrition by supporting food access for families to help ensure no child goes hungry during these unprecedented times.
To find the closest school meal service location, visit HealthyEating.org/SchoolMeals.