Special Blog Post by: Marc Baker, Grants Manager

Although Second Harvest has had a long tradition of working with schools, it has often been on a logistical level: do you have a parking lot we could use to distribute food once a month? Now, we are looking at schools and school districts as true partners in our work.

Schools, after all, have trusted relationships with students and their families and know what their needs are; have established communication channels with them; know what community resources already exist; have large facilities that can accommodate the size of their student population; and are typically geographically convenient for families when their children’s school is in their neighborhood.

In partnership with schools and districts, we are developing tailored programs to meet the unique food assistance needs of their populations. Our “tailored school solutions program” meets the needs of hungry children and families by providing them with nutritious food to take home when other resources, such as free or reduced-price school meals, are not available.

Our school pantry sites are selected based a number of criteria, including:

  • High poverty rates (>75% student enrollment in the free and reduced-price meal program)
  • Lack of food resources within the neighborhood
  • The school’s commitment to hosting the program at their site
  • Our ability to recruit volunteers and nonprofit partners to assist in the implementation of the programs at each school site

Each school program is responsive to the food needs of local families and typically includes fresh produce, lean meats, eggs, dairy, grains, beans and an assortment of canned and frozen items.
In addition to the distribution of free food at school sites, our school food assistance programs incorporate nutrition education and CalFresh (food stamp) related activities to promote health and encourage nutritious eating, including:

  • Nutrition education for children and their families
  • Recipe tip cards in multiple languages
  • Cooking demonstrations and food tastings to help families make the best use of the food they receive from us
  • CalFresh education, outreach and application assistance at school sites to connect families with additional resources to alleviate food insecurity

At certain school campuses, our food assistance programs are provided in conjunction with other school-based community intervention services such as financial planning, tutoring, and parent coaching tailored to address the families’ needs and achieve positive outcomes in their lives.

Today, we are serving more than 16,700 low-income kids and families each month through our tailored school solutions program, distributing the equivalent of two million meals (over 2.4 million pounds of healthy food) annually to narrow the meal gap in our community.

*** 1 in 3 kids in our community may not be getting enough to eat every day. Stand up for kids and get involved .