Aug. 25 2020 07:43 PM

From the COVID-19 shutdown, through summer and now the fall, schools and students remain a priority.

The information below has been supplied by dairy marketers and other industry organizations. It has not been edited, verified or endorsed by Hoard’s Dairyman.

In the United States, nearly 30 million children depend on the USDA’s National School Lunch Program for free or reduced-price meals offered at school. Despite this need, only 4 million children – or 13% of those dependent on school meals – receive meals in the summer. So when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, forcing schools across the nation to close months before the scheduled summer break, it didn’t take long to recognize the necessity of keeping school meal programs running.

At the onset of the pandemic, Dairy MAX immediately shifted work with one goal in mind: making sure food, specifically dairy, gets in the hands of those who need it most. By tapping into partnerships and leveraging existing relationships with school district food service departments in the eight states they serve, Dairy MAX has generated $673,554 in donations to help schools continue serving meals since March, despite school closures.

“As schools began closing across our region, our team’s priority was to ensure all students had access to school meals, and that those meals included milk and other dairy options,” said Alyson Kirchner, Dairy MAX vice president of school marketing. “I am proud of the team’s agility and thankful for the countless partners who have rallied together to continue offering school meals to the children who need them. And of course, none of this would be possible without our dairy farmers.”

Feeding America estimates up to 18 million children in the U.S. might become food insecure this year as a result of the pandemic. Across the eight-states Dairy MAX serves, 8.5 million children depend on school meals for their daily nutrition.

To help prevent an increase in food insecurity, Dairy MAX has coordinated and supported several efforts to continue feeding kids. Dairy checkoff partner GENYOUth launched its COVID-19 Emergency School Nutrition Fund in March to provide school nutrition departments with the urgent funds needed to purchase resources and equipment for daily distribution of meals. A product of the relationship between National Dairy Council and the NFL, GENYOUth strives to make a lasting difference in children’s lives by generating outside funding to support youth wellness programs like Fuel Up to Play 60. When schools began closing due to COVID-19, GENYOUth stepped in to raise money and make sure kids continue getting proper nutrition.

In addition to promoting the GENYOUth grants, Dairy MAX harnessed the power of partnerships to leverage additional funds to provide grants to schools in the region. To date, Dairy MAX and partners have contributed $673,554 in-kind and monetary donations. Partners include Aramark, Blue Bell, Dallas Cowboys, Denver Broncos, New Orleans Saints, Kendra Scott, Legends Hospitality, Liviri Coolers, Texas Lottery Commission and YETI Coolers. In the Dairy MAX region, 337 grants have been awarded to-date, which means an average of 440,001 meals are being served each day due to the grant funds. Additionally, across the nation 46 million school meals have been provided through the GENYOUth fund.

Local school districts who received grants have been grateful for the support.

“The grant from Dairy MAX was extremely valuable in enabling the Alief ISD Nutrition Department at Alief Middle School to continue to serve our community breakfast and lunch curbside during this unprecedented time,” said a representative of Alief ISD. “Thank you so much to all the dairy farm families for this generous grant to help with resources needed for meal distribution and delivery.”

In addition to grant funding, the Dairy MAX team continues supporting school districts by:

  • Developing resources to help food service workers shift from traditional school milk to bulk milk purchases and distribution
  • Providing cold storage solutions
  • Helping navigate USDA waivers
  • Providing PPE to school food service workers

To learn more about Dairy MAX’s response to COVID-19, click here.