Nearly a quarter of Baltimore’s young residents struggle with food insecurity. That’s why, since the pandemic started, and now as students break for the summer, Elizabeth Marchetta, executive director of food and nutrition services and her team at Baltimore City Public Schools in Baltimore, Maryland, have made it their mission to ensure that local families across the city never have to worry about a lapse in access to food. Since July 1, 2020, BCPS has served more than 4.5 million grab-and-go meals at their 80 sites around Baltimore–that’s more than 30,000 meals every day.
Doing so has required constant innovation to adapt to changing COVID rules and varying family needs. That means implementing programs like food trucks, which will launch during summer 2021. Designed and run by local teens, the food trucks serve a dual purpose–both delivering meals to families in need and involving older youth, who can sometimes be harder to reach. It also means delivering more than 5,000 “ag-tivity” and “plant-a-seed” kits to homes, to teach kids about gardening and fresh produce, while engaging many students who were chronically absent during the 2020-21 school year because of COVID-19. BCPS even offers “FaceTime with a Farmer”–live virtual field trips to over 3,700 students from 63 area schools–providing lessons from home that connect the dots between agriculture and healthy foods to science, math, social studies and English Language Arts.
In addition to the regular school and summer meals served, more than 25 distribution sites also are offering produce boxes, funded by the City of Baltimore. Since the beginning of the 2020-21 school year, BCPS has served more than 75,000 of these pre-packed 20-pound boxes. And last summer, thanks to a partnership with World Central Kitchen, they served another 10,000 boxes to local families. These boxes are even accompanied by YouTube videos with recipe ideas.
BCPS staff take their commitment seriously to ensure students are fed under any circumstances and Elizabeth says she knows from conversations with families that they’re making a real difference. And throughout the summer even when schools are closed, they’ll keep adapting and innovating to make a difference for Baltimore families.
Summer Food Service Program
Summer meal programs are a lifeline for millions of children from families with low income who live in underserved and rural communities. Many children who rely on summer and school meals programs struggle with hunger or food insecurity. In 2014 and 2015, 84% of food-insecure households with school-age children accessed free- or reduced-price lunches.
How School Meals Help Families Impacted by the Pandemic
School meals are a lifeline to tens of millions of families across the country. In March 2020, schools in the U.S. began closing in droves in response to COVID-19. School nutrition staff sprang into action, ensuring that children– and their families– received healthy foods in their time of need.