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How thousands in grant money will help a Virginia school district feed students

Virginia non-profit fights against food insecurity among children
Posted at 12:25 AM, Dec 08, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-08 00:25:15-05

CAROLINE COUNTY, Va. -- A Virginia nonprofit distributed thousands of dollars in grant funds to combat food insecurity in the state. A portion of that money went to a local school district.

"As we head into the holiday season, we know that thousands of kids across Virginia are already facing hunger," said Sarah Steely, Director of No Kid Hungry Virginia. "We also know that holiday break can be one of the hungriest times of the year for kids who normally rely on the meals that they access during the school day."

Steely said that was exacerbated by the economic impact of the pandemic. She said as many as one in eight children in the state may face hunger.

"It could mean a family having to make a terrible decision between having to choose whether to pay a medical bill, or pay a utility bill, a light bill or put food on the table," Steely said.

No Kid Hungry Virginia is working to combat that problem with a $125,000 grant. It was just the latest allotment, of the more than $4.1 million the nonprofit has invested since the start of the pandemic.

Recipients included organizations, schools and churches across the state with meal programs benefiting children and families.

Caroline County Public Schools was one of them.

"Timing is perfect," said Keith Conner, Supervisor for the School Nutrition Programs.

He said the school division has already received and spent the $5,000 they'd been granted. Conner said the money was going toward helping to offset the costs of grab-and-go lunches needed amid the pandemic.

"We're bagging the food items. Whether it's for meals in the classroom, instead of the traditional cafeteria format, or whether we're serving them in curbside and things of that nature -- well that that escalates your costs dramatically," Conner said.

Students at Caroline County Public Schools get lunches for free thanks to the Community Eligibility Program. Conner said the concern was whether the reimbursement that the school division would receive for the meals was high enough to offset expenses.

He said while the USDA had helped with funding, between the changes in the serving format and supply chain issues, it had been a struggle.

Conner said that had resulted in other school divisions digging into their education funds, but fortunately, that was not something Caroline County Schools had had to do.

"The whole thing is it's kind of a perfect storm coming together. But again, our efforts are trying to minimize any impacts so that the children really are not really aware of what we're doing behind the scenes," Conner said.

No Kid Hungry Virginia has cyclical grant rounds available for school nutritional departments and community organizations. Steely said the next one would be in the Spring and encouraged organizations looking to find out more to go to their website or email info@strength.org.