A recently launched public-private partnership is serving nearly 5 million meals per week to rural children impacted by COVID-19-related school closures. Though the Meals to You program has well-surpassed its goal of 1 million meals per week, the program partners – USDA, Baylor Collaborative on Hunger, McLane Global, PepsiCo and others – are still working to help more rural children.
“Farm communities are the backbone of our country – working tirelessly to put food on our tables – but unfortunately, they’ve been particularly hard-hit by the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Denton McLane, chairman of McLane Global. “This USDA-funded program has been a lifeline to thousands of students across rural America who would otherwise go hungry during this challenging period, and I couldn’t be prouder of our partners, employees and the people on the ground working to ensure these meals get to those who need it most.”
The program, active in 31 states, provides boxes containing 20 nutritious meals – 10 breakfasts and 10 lunches – to cover the meals children would normally receive at school over two school weeks. Foods contained in the boxes meet USDA’s Summer Food Service Program meal standards and may include items like milk, fruit cups, cereal, whole-grain crackers and chili. Boxes are delivered directly to children’s doorsteps via the U.S. Postal Service and other delivery services.
Currently participating states are: Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Arizona, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin.
Five additional states – Connecticut, Florida, New York, Oregon and Wyoming – and Puerto Rico are applying to the program.
To be eligible to participate in the program, school districts must meet the following requirements:
- Participate in the National School Lunch Program
- Have at least 50% of enrollment eligible for free or reduced-priced meals
- Have an announced closure of at least four weeks (not counting spring break)
- Fall under the designation of rural area (can be checked here)
Students in qualifying school districts who were receiving free or reduced priced meals through the National School Lunch Program are eligible to participate in the program. School districts will reach out to families with more information and instructions for signing up, but parents are also encouraged to visit MealsToYou.org and proactively register their children. Once a school district is enrolled, a student who signs up for the program can expect to start receiving meals delivered to their home in about one week. Each student who is enrolled in a household will receive their own meal kit.
Answers to frequently asked questions about the program are found here: https://mealstoyou.org/emtyfaqs/