Despite the hardships brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Baldwin County School Nutrition Department has been committed to providing healthy, nutritious meals to our children and their families. This commitment continues throughout the summer months with the school district’s Seamless Summer Meal Program and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Farmers to Families Food Box initiative. When Baldwin County schools closed March 16 due to health precautions brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, the school district’s nutrition department was faced with the challenge of creating alternative methods to provide meals to children. As a result, they implemented the summer meal program, which operates through a delivery and on-site distribution process. Because of this resourcefulness, the school nutrition department was able to serve 212,708 meals from March 17th through May 29th. On June 1st, the BCSD School Nutrition Department, once again, started the Seamless Summer meal program designed to provide local children with nutritious meals during the summer months. The meal program operates on Mondays and Wednesdays only, but in between the two days, children can pick up meals that will last them the entire week. Buses from the Baldwin County School Transportation Department run five bus routes within the area, making stops at designated neighborhoods and housing authority locations in an effort to be accessible to as many children as possible. Pickup sites are in the following locations:· Baldwin High School, Midway Hills Academy, the Mary Vinson Memorial Library, the Collin P. Lee Center, and the Boys & Girls Club. The summer meal program is open to all children in Baldwin County and eligible students do not have to be part of the Baldwin County School District.
Another way in which the school nutrition department is helping families in need is through the USDA Farmers to Families Food Box initiative. This program is part of the USDA’s Families First Coronavirus Response Act to purchase and distribute agricultural products to those in need. Through this program, USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) partners with national, regional and local suppliers, whose workforce has been significantly impacted by the closure of restaurants, hotels and other food service businesses, to purchase up to $3 billion in fresh produce, dairy and meat products. Thus far, the program has been a great success. On June 3, school nutrition department staff and volunteers held their first food box distribution session.1,000 boxes of fresh produce were given out that day to area families and on June 11, they distributed over 1700 boxes of produce. The distribution site is located in the back parking lot of Lakeview Academy. Distribution of food boxes takes place every Wednesday from 10 a.m. – noon from now until Aug. 26. Anyone arriving to pick up a food box must wear a mask and practice social distancing to ensure safety for everyone. Volunteers are always welcomed and their time is greatly appreciated. Any community organizations interested in volunteering to assist with the Farmers to Families program are encouraged to contact Susan Nelson via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.