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!

Alabama Food Bank Association Receives Support from Wind Creek Hospitality for COVID-19 Relief Efforts

ALABAMA, May 14, 2020 –​ A​labama Food Bank Association today announced it received critical support from ​Wind Creek Hospitality​ to help provide 250,000 meals to Alabama families during the COVID-19 pandemic. This donation comes at a critical time for food banks in Alabama as they respond to a greater need during this unprecedented crisis. Children have lost the school meals they depend on, families are struggling with lost wages, and seniors are more at risk for hunger than ever before.

The Alabama Food Bank Association is grateful to Wind Creek for their tremendous support of Alabama communities. “Because of the generous support from Wind Creek, our food banks are able to serve families experiencing economic crisis during this pandemic,” said Laura Lester, executive director of the Alabama Food Bank Association. “Our network’s hunger-relief programs help deliver millions of pounds of nutritious food to the communities we serve across Alabama.”

Wind Creek’s Director of Public Relations, Magi Williams, explained the donation is all about being a good neighbor. “Wind Creek isn’t on the front lines of the pandemic crisis, but we want to support those who are. We’re proud to come alongside the Alabama Food Bank Association in providing food and hope to families and children who need it most.”

About Alabama Food Bank Association

The Alabama Food Bank Association works to end hunger by assisting the food bank network in obtaining more food and funds, fostering public awareness of the food banks’ mission, and creating partnerships to help alleviate hunger in Alabama. Every day, our eight members in Alabama (Community Food Bank of Central Alabama, Feeding the Gulf Coast, Food Bank of East Alabama, Food Bank of North Alabama, Montgomery Area Food Bank, Selma Food Bank, West Alabama Food Bank, Wiregrass Area Food Bank) partner with a statewide network of food donors, emergency food pantries, and soup kitchens to provide food to hungry people. Fighting hunger requires significant funding for every step of the process—from acquiring food, to storing the food, to transporting the food to people in need. Learn more at​ ​alfba.org​.

About Wind Creek

Wind Creek Hospitality is an authority of the Poarch Band of Creek Indians. Wind Creek Hospitality manages the Tribe’s gaming facilities including: Wind Creek Atmore, Wind Creek Wetumpka, Wind Creek Montgomery, Wind Creek Bethlehem, Wa She Shu Casino in Nevada, Renaissance Aruba Resort & Casino, Renaissance Curacao Resort & Casino, WindCreekCasino.com, as well as racetracks in Alabama and Florida. The Poarch Band of Creek Indians is the only federally recognized Indian Tribe in the state of Alabama, operating as a sovereign nation with its own system of government and bylaws. The Tribe operates a variety of economic enterprises, which employ thousands.

Serving Students During the Coronavirus: Best Practices

This article was originally published on April 2 by the Laurie M. Tisch Center for Food Education and Policy:

Congress recently passed measures (H.R. 6201H.R. 748) that enable states to enact emergency school food measures. To provide students with nutritious food during school closures, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) issued multiple nationwide waivers that allow school food authorities (SFAs) to:

  • provide grab-and-go and home-delivered meals;
  • expand the hours when they serve food;
  • deviate from nutrition standards if there are supply chain disruptions; and
  • allow guardians to pick up meals for children. 

Students can also receive benefits for food on an electronic benefits transfer (EBT) card via the Pandemic EBT (P-EBT) program. But states must submit comprehensive plans to USDA to ensure school food authorities can effectively provide meals to all students who need them. 

The Tisch Food Center has been tracking how school districts are feeding students during school closures. Analyzing urban, suburban, and rural school districts’ responses in an expanding number of states, we determined that without a streamlined federal plan, effective implementation of emergency school meal measures has been incredibly difficult. 

In the next stimulus bill, Congress must consider a comprehensive community strategy to provide students, their family members, and neighbors the food they need during this COVID-19 crisis. Until Congress takes necessary steps, school food authorities should work to implement practices listed below. Every district has its own unique circumstances and available resources, so some best practices may not be practical at this time.

Best practices fall into four categories:

  • expanding access;
  • eliminating barriers;
  • ensuring safety; and
  • communicating with clarity and transparency.

Expanding Access

  • Extend the pickup period. Some SFAs only provide a two-hour window in which families can pick up meals. Allowing them a longer period of time should make it easier for more families to access the food they need and reinforce social distancing.
    • Example: Fairfax County Public Schools (VA) is allowing schools to pick up meals between 9:00 am and 1:00 pm.
  • Serve multiple meals at a time. Providing multiple meals minimizes logistical challenges as well as potential transmission. At the very least, SFAs should provide breakfast, lunch, and, if available, a snack. Ideally, SFAs would provide 5 days’ worth of food.
    • Example: San Francisco Unified School District (CA) allows families to pick up five days’ worth of meals.
  • Strategically locate meal sites. To make it more convenient for families, SFAs have opened meal sites near public housing, hospitals, and community centers.
    • Example: Montgomery County Public Schools (MD) is distributing meals at shopping centers.
  • Deliver meals. Delivering meals directly to homes or along regular school bus routes makes it easier for families that lack access to transportation and reduces potential transmission. Direct delivery is the best option for families in which someone is sick, a member has a severe disability, guardians are working, or who live in rural areas.
    • Example: Ithaca City School District (NY) is distributing meals to families’ homes on a daily basis. Families can us an online delivery request form to sign up.
  • Serve meals during spring break. USDA has made clear in its guidance that the agency will reimburse SFAs for meals served during scheduled spring breaks. By providing meals during spring break, SFAs can ensure there is no disruption in meal service. Check out the Nutrition Policy Institute and School Nutrition Association’s fact sheet.
    • Example: Dallas Independent School District (TX) provided free grab-and-go meals to students during their March spring break.
  • Provide weekend meals. To ensure families experiencing new or greater financial hardship don’t go hungry, several SFAs are now providing food to eat on Saturdays and Sundays.
    • Example: Baltimore City Schools (MD) has provided weekend grab-and-go breakfast and lunch at recreation centers and mobile meal sites.
  • Provide food for adults. SFAs across the country have coordinated with other food programs to provide meals and/or food boxes that adults can pick up at school meal sites.
    • Example: Broward County Public Schools (FL) is providing meals for students and families members who are present.
    • Example: New York City Department of Education (NY) created regional enrichment centers for children of front-line workers to facilitate remote learning and provide hot meals.
  • Provide childcare for school food service workers. Providing places where children are safely cared for allows front-line workers to serve meals.

Eliminating Barriers

  • Do not require children to show identification. Requiring students to show identification could prevent those who need food from receiving it.
    • The School District of Philadelphia (PA) specifies that families do not need to show identification or proof of income to qualify for grab-and-go meals.
    • Example: Seattle Public Schools (WA) is allowing siblings, parents, and guardians to pick up meals without students present.
  • Do not require children to be present for guardians to collect meals. USDA has issued a nationwide waiver allowing guardians to collect meals without their children. The goal of this waiver is to reduce potential transmission.

Ensuring Safety

  • Establish safety procedures to protect staff. Many SFAs do not have personal protective equipment (PPE) such as masks and gloves to protect school food staff from potential transmission. Some meal service sites have employed security to help ease transactions between staff and anxious families.
    • Example: Fairbanks North Star Borough School District (AK) has set parameters around meal distribution, barring distribution from buildings, requiring staff to set up tables outside mobile sites, and maintaining social distancing.
  • Designate meal pickup sites outside the school building. For those on foot, pickup sites in tents or near the school front doors are a good option. For drivers, curbside pickup is a good option.
    • Example: Chico Unified School District (CA) is providing grab-and-go food at drive-through pick up sites, delivering food to each car.
    • Example: Hawaii Department of Education (HI) is serving fresh breakfasts, so they specified that food should be consumed before 10:00 am for food safety reasons.
  • Establish food safety procedures. Instructions for staff preparing and serving, as well as families consuming meals can help prevent transmission and foodborne illness. Groups like LunchAssist have created resources in Spanish and English.

Communicating with Clarity and Transparency

  • Distribute information about P-EBT and other food assistance options in multiple languages. States have yet to roll out P-EBT. When they do, SFAs should share information along with meals, letting people know how they can access these cash benefits.
  • Use all available media outlets. SFAs are using robocalls, text messages, radio, television, social media, etc. to communicate information about meals, service schedules, and locations.
    • Example: The School District of Philadelphia (PA) used robocalls in various languages and calls from building principals to notify parents about available meals.
  • Provide up-to-date information on future plans. Families are under severe stress.  Communicating how and when SFAs plan to distribute food can help families plan.
    • Example: Prince William County Public Schools (VA) posted on its website that USDA created a waiver allowing parents to collect meals, but the district is awaiting state approval.
  • Publish menus. Include information about food allergens and vegetarian, kosher, and halal options (if available).
    • Example: New York City Department of Education (NY) is publishing grab-and-go menus during school closures and providing peanut-free and vegetarian options.
    • Example: Orange County Public Schools (FL) specify that all children 18 years or younger and any student registered in the county’s schools are eligible to receive meals.
  • Make clear that meals are available to all high school students, including those over 18 years of age.

Non-Profit Feedback Needed

The COVID-19 Effect on Alabama & Georgia Nonprofits The research project “The COVID-19 Effect on Alabama and Georgia Nonprofits”, conducted by Auburn University’s Cary Center and the Philanthropy and Nonprofit Studies Program, wants to better understand the greatest needs of the nonprofit sector in Alabama and Georgia due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

We hope you can participate in a short survey on how the pandemic has affected your nonprofit. The survey will take 5-7 minutes to complete and includes 15 questions, focusing on fundraising, the need for and ability to perform services, and your concerns for the coming weeks. The results will only be shared in aggregate and your identity will not be linked to your responses. 

We will use the results to provide real-time data to government officials, foundations, and other decision-makers about the current economic conditions facing nonprofits and the need for immediate and long-term support in order to ensure the ongoing provision of critical services in Alabama and Georgia. The results of this survey will educate decision-makers on how to best allocate resources to nonprofits in the coming months, e.g. the CARES Act. 

We thank the University of San Diego and The Nonprofit Institute for creating the survey and the Nonprofit Academic Centers Council (NACC) for sharing it with its membership.

To access the survey, scan the QR code or click the blue button below.
 
For any questions regarding this survey, please contact Brittany Branyon at branyba@auburn.edu.
Complete Survey