Standing Strong: How Coalition Members Continue to Adapt in the Face of Covid-19
Updated: Dec 7, 2020
By: Lindsay Goodridge, MPH (c)
Covid-19 has presented a formidable challenge for school food programs looking to serve healthy food this fall. Nevertheless, as we have shared in 2 previous blog posts: Mobilizing Communities to Increase Access to Healthy Food while Schools are Closed (April 2020) and Transitioning from the Immediate COVID-19 Response to a National School Food Program (May 2020) members of the Coalition have shown resilience, commitment to their communities, and creativity when adapting their programs for Covid. Many members are continuing to provide healthy home cooked snacks and meals to schools, while others are developing creative ways to get food to children, youth and their families who would have participated in school food programs last year.
Below are 6 Covid pivot themes shared by members on a recent call.
1. Continuing to Deliver Lunches and Snacks to Schools
Cantine Pour Tous allows schools to choose whether to receive meals packed or in bulk and producers must meet new health standards for meal production and delivery.
Brown Bagging for Calgary Kids (BB4CK) was able to resume their school meal delivery programs for many schools because they deliver their meals as prepackaged single serve items.
2. Continuing to Prepare and Serve Healthy Meals in Schools
Équiterre offers salad bars with local produce in 14 schools through Farm to School: Canada Digs In! Initiative.
The Screaming Avocado Café at Stratford Northwestern Secondary School met with their public health unit to find solutions to continue their student run café offering meals for $3-4 (or discreetly free) with the adaptations of pre-ordered meals and classroom delivery.
3. Reallocating Funds to Provide Food Boxes
Perth-Andover Middle School used part of their funding to support community food banks to prepare food boxes that included hunted meat, fish, and produce.
Natoaganeg School partnered with their food center to distribute food boxes and garden packages from their school garden which included ingredients to make specific recipes.
Sudbury-Manitoulin Better Beginnings Better Futures (SMBBBF) distributed good food boxes to their communities using their student nutrition van and mobile market trailer.
BB4CK had an abundance of fresh food in their kitchens when schools shut down, so they prepared and sent it home with students who were collecting their belongings at schools.
4. Providing Vouchers & Gift Cards
SMBBBF sent vouchers to families to redeem for fruit and vegetables from their mobile market as well as $50 cash cards per student several times throughout the summer.
BB4CK mailed $30 grocery cards per student every 2 weeks to families who applied when schools shut down. They continue to provide grocery cards through teachers at schools who can’t yet participate in their lunch program.
5. Conducting Workshops
Boîte à Lunch continues to offer in-person and online workshops with reduced numbers of participants.
Ateliers Cinq Épices continued to provide cooking workshops during summer camps in Quebec and Alberta.
6. Creating Resources
Ateliers Cinq Épices developed a Covid-norms guide to help other programs adapt to the safety guidelines.
Boîte à Lunch created a webinar about the potential of online culinary workshops for children.
BB4CK re-launched their Food Finder YYC website and texting service which provides a list of where lunches are available in Calgary.
Équiterre launched a practical tool to facilitate the procurement of local food in institutions.
Despite challenges, some programs identified Covid pivots that they would like to continue: Summerlunch+ created a virtual learning program and BB4CK wants to continue the direct engagement with families that they’ve been able to cultivate.
The resilience, determination, and commitment to student meals that these programs have shown in the face of Covid-19 demonstrate that not only can a National School Food Program be safe to implement, but that with the proper funding and support, schools are up to the challenge.