End Child Hunger in Alabama Introduces County Food Guide Resource Project

Charlotte Tuggle | Communications Editor

ECHA county ambassador badge.

ECHA is a network of key state leaders representing both public and private sectors working together to end child hunger in the state of Alabama.

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to drive food insecurity rates for Alabama families, End Child Hunger in Alabama (ECHA), an outreach initiative led by Auburn University’s College of Human Sciences, has launched a comprehensive project to ensure all Alabamians can find nutritious food near them.

The ECHA County Food Guide Project is an interactive map of Alabama counties housed on the ECHA website. Once you click on your county, you will be directed to a page that lists food resources near you. Volunteers and community partners maintain and update the map on a regular basis with up-to-date information.

“The ongoing health crisis continues to take a toll on families in Alabama and around the globe. Sadly, the impacts of this virus are reaching our youngest citizens, and for some, this could mean worrying about their next meal,” Governor Kay Ivey said. “As a longtime advocate for End Child Hunger in Alabama, I am proud to see them introduce a new, comprehensive tool that will greatly aid those who need it most, especially during the evolving COVID-19 situation.”

ECHA is a network of key state leaders representing both public and private sectors working together to end child hunger in the state of Alabama. The County Food Guide Project is an extension of their mission under the current circumstances in which families may be especially pressed to find food.

“ECHA partnering organizations diligently work to ensure every child in Alabama has access to nutritious foods,” Alicia Powers, managing director of Auburn University’s Hunger Solutions Institute, said. “In the case of COVID-19, access must include not only ensuring the physical presence of a food resource but also informing the public of the most up-to-date operating procedures for food resources. As facilitator of ECHA, Hunger Solutions Institute is pleased to coordinate and maintain the County Food Guides supporting Alabamians as we all continue to navigate the impact of COVID-19.”

For more information and to use the interactive resource map, visit aub.ie/foodguides .

USDA Provides Flexibilities to Ensure Kids Receive Meals This Fall

Local schools and childcare providers are empowered to adapt meal service operations for the upcoming school year (Washington, D.C., June 25, 2020) – U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue today announced a range of nationwide flexibilities to ensure America’s children receive the nutritious food they need throughout the upcoming school year. These waivers give states, schools, and childcare providers time to plan for how they will serve children in the fall, including allowing for new and innovative feeding options as the nation recovers from the coronavirus.   “As the country re-opens and schools prepare for the fall, a one-size-fits-all approach to meal service simply won’t cut it,” said Secretary Sonny Perdue. “The flexibilities announced today give states, schools, and child care providers the certainty they need to operate the USDA child nutrition programs in ways that make sense given their local, on-the-ground situations and ensure America’s children can count on meal service throughout the school year.”  
As fall nears, schools are considering many different learning models. This announcement empowers them to operate the School Breakfast Program (SBP) and National School Lunch Program (NSLP) to best serve their students throughout the 2020-2021 school year. It also allows providers in the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) to tailor operations to serve the children in their care. USDA is providing flexibilities around meal patterns, group-setting requirements, meal service times, and parent/guardian pick-up of meals for kids across all three programs to address anticipated changes for the coming school year.  
USDA is also announcing a new flexibility that waives the requirement for high schools to provide students the option to select some of the foods offered in a meal. While this practice, known as “offer versus serve” is encouraged, social distancing or meals-in-the-classroom models would make this regulatory requirement difficult. Collectively, these waivers reduce barriers to meal service options that support a transition back to normal operations while simultaneously responding to evolving local conditions.Background  The following nationwide waivers will remain in effect through June 30, 2021 for the SBP, NSLP, and CACFP. These flexibilities allow for:Meals that do not meet normal meal pattern requirements when necessary to keep kids fed;  Meals to be served outside of group settings and outside of standard times to facilitate grab-and-go and other alternate service options; and  Parent/guardian pick-up of meals for students participating in distance learning.    The new waiver applies to the NSLP’s “offer versus serve” requirement for high schools, which would be difficult to execute while maintaining social distancing, particularly if meals are prepackaged for in-classroom or grab-and-go service.
FNS previously extended numerous waivers through the summer months to give summer program operators the continued flexibility they need to leverage innovative solutions in support of social distancing – such as delivery and grab n’ go – without interruption. These waivers ensure all children can access free meals throughout the summer. Families can use FNS’s Meals for Kids interactive site finder to locate free meals for children ages 18 and under this summer at 67,000 sites across the nation.  
Today’s actions are part of USDA’s focus on service during the COVID-19 outbreak. To learn more about FNS’s response to COVID-19, visit www.fns.usda.gov/coronavirus and follow FNS on Twitter at @USDANutrition.  
FNS administers 15 nutrition assistance programs that leverage American’s agricultural abundance to ensure children and low-income individuals and families have nutritious food to eat. FNS also co-develops the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which provide science-based nutrition recommendations and serve as the cornerstone of federal nutrition policy.  

A Special Thank You to Child Nutrition Workers!

Throughout the months of March, April, and May, thousands of Child Nutrition workers and volunteers worked tirelessly to make sure local children had access to meals while out of school as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Many schools and other organizations continue to provide meals for Alabama throughout the summer months! Please enjoy some of these pictures from school districts throughout the state!