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COVID-19 Won't Stop Missouri School Meals

Some Missouri school districts are offering grab-and-go lunches to students while classes are out. (AdobeStock)
Some Missouri school districts are offering grab-and-go lunches to students while classes are out. (AdobeStock)
March 24, 2020

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- The coronavirus may have shut down schools in Missouri, but it's not stopping efforts to ensure kids have access to nutritious foods during the day.

According to Missouri Kids Count data, roughly 17% of Missouri children are food insecure, meaning they are unsure where their next meal will come from. Federally funded programs help to meet the need by providing free or reduced-price meals during the school day.

Now with classes canceled, it's a full-court press for agencies and organizations that help connect children in need to anti-hunger programs. Jeremy Milarsky, East Missouri program manager with No Kid Hungry Missouri, a program of the Family and Community Trust, explained.

"The work is extremely critical now in a way that it hasn't been before," Milarsky said. "Because there's a lot of confusion and anxiety, and the biggest cause of anxiety is not knowing what's happening."

Missouri was approved for USDA waivers that allow school meals to be served in non-group settings and off campus. In January, the National School Lunch Program provided more than 8 million meals to kids in Missouri.

Many districts have established pick-up locations for meals, or are using school buses to distribute meals to drop-off sites. Mallory McGowin with the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education said they are committed to providing districts the flexibility they need to ensure the health and safety of their students.

"During these really unprecedented and uncertain times, our school children don't have to worry about breakfast and lunch because so many people are coming together to figure out a way to make that happen for them," McGowin said. "It's been really heartwarming to see."

Milarsky noted there is a lot of information available about feeding programs through online social networks, but recommended also checking with local resources.

"If I were a parent I would be in contact with my school and making sure I'm getting messages from my school district and my school in terms of what the options are and what's available locally," Milarsky said.

Additional information is available at MOfact.org/nokidhungry and DESE.MO.gov.

Mary Schuermann Kuhlman, Public News Service - MO