The COVID-19 pandemic has posed numerous challenges for school districts across the country — particularly in addressing how to safely feed its students.
Many schools have been forced to rethink meal delivery, as communal cafeterias may pose safety risks. This, in turn, may create an additional deterrent to an already difficult challenge — getting students to eat the most important meal of the day. Breakfast has been shown to have numerous health and educational benefits. However, it’s often the first meal sacrificed as an estimated three million kids who need a healthy breakfast at school, aren’t getting one.
To help address this gap, GENYOUth has donated grab and go meal carts, through a UnitedHealthcare grant, to help students in South Carolina receive this essential meal to start their day. The meal carts are stocked with breakfast foods for students at Lexington High School and Kingstree Middle Magnet School of the Arts — making it easier to safely pick up a nutritious bite to eat before heading to class.
“We sincerely appreciate receiving this grant funding and are so grateful to have this new cart,” said Sally Nicholson, the director of food service and nutrition for Lexington County School District One. “It has been a huge assistance for our school community; especially being able to provide meals to students who need increased support during the pandemic.”
More children are now at risk of food insecurity, due to the ongoing pandemic. In many cases, temporary and long-term school closures have disrupted regular access to food assistance for students who rely on free or reduced priced meals to meet their nutritional needs.
“GENYOUth’s recent survey of 550 school nutrition professionals found that massive school disruptions and record-level unemployment are putting 30 million American kids at risk for hunger,” said Alexis Glick, the CEO of GENYOUth. “Our organization is responding to this urgent need with millions of dollars in school meal delivery grants, in-kind resources and the donation of new grab and go meal carts to schools across the nation. We are appreciative of our partnership with UnitedHealthcare to help us support school communities.”
The grab and go style breakfast helps overcome obstacles that could interfere with students getting a balanced meal. A GENYOUth report found that when breakfast can come to students where they are, those who receive free and reduced priced meals may be more willing to participate.
“UnitedHealthcare recognizes that food insecure students face significant barriers to academic achievement – physically, emotionally, cognitively and behaviorally – making it difficult for them to reach their full potential,” said Wanda Coley, vice president of strategy for Medicare & Retirement for UnitedHealthcare. “Our hope is that in working with GENYOUth to provide grab and go breakfast carts, students will have access to nutritious food items and be ready to learn.”
GENYOUth has delivered 500 grab and go meal carts to schools across the U.S. since the program’s inception in 2017. The food carts will remain at both South Carolina schools to support serving school meals for the remainder of the year and for years to come.