It’s been nearly six months since COVID-19 shuttered schools across the country. As that avenue for fluid milk sales was collapsing, cafeteria workers jumped into action and a number of subsidized food programs were introduced to help fill the need for food to our youngest consumers. As the new school year begins in both in-person and virtual style, many of these programs are still in existence, but there’s some concern as to how well they are being utilized.
“In New York City, the meals delivered to families in the spring declined to about 30% of what was the normal, but it varies tremendously district to district,” detailed Cornell’s Andy Novakovic on the August 19 Hoard’s Dairyman DairyLivestream.
His observation was echoed by Tammy Anderson-Wise, who has led the Dairy Council of California for 22 years. “There has been a significant decline. We’re also starting to see layoffs of school food service professionals, so there’s a ripple effect here,” she explained of the state’s schools starting the new year in virtual instruction mode. “Schools are just now really starting to pick back up, so I would say within a few weeks, we’ll start seeing some real, solid data on this fall.”
Obstacles to pick up
In some regard, poor participation can be attributed to challenges to even reach the food. The panelists primarily identified transportation as a struggle for those in need of food support. When buses were limiting numbers, individuals without cars were at times unable to reach the locations where food was available.
When asked about the effectiveness of the Farm to Families Food Box program, Milwaukee area dietician Yvonne Greer said it certainly served its purpose. “It wasn’t ideal because of the fact that we would like people to be able to choose the foods that they are getting versus getting something in a box,” Greer said. “However, they were able to get that food, and it made a big difference. So, it wasn’t ideal, but it did help a lot of families and they were very happy to get that food.”
An ongoing series of events
DairyLivestream will air twice each month for the remainder of this year. The next broadcast will be on Tuesday, September 1. Each episode is designed for panelists to answer over 30 minutes of audience questions. If you haven’t joined a DairyLivestream broadcast yet, register here. Registering once registers you for all future events.