New England Dairy Farmers Support Connecticut Schools During COVID-19 Pandemic Meal Response

Rene Thibault| View Author Bio

East Hartford, CT – The Connecticut Milk Promotion Board (CTMPB) through the regional nonprofit New England Dairy, has funded 585 cooler bags in the Constitution State to support 22 school districts as part of a greater effort to help schools throughout the region serve meals during school closures related to COVID-19.

In Connecticut, dairy farm families have invested over $26,000 to support emergency meal service programs for more than 113,000 students starting when schools closed in March.

As school districts across the New England region worked around-the-clock to feed their students with either grab-n-go or home delivered meals, local dairy farmers stepped up to support those efforts.  New England Dairy has invested nearly $80,000 to purchase and donate cooler bags across the region to help schools store and transport school meals and milk to students in need.  Dairy farm families have made possible the purchase of more than 1,670 cooler bags for schools to date.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, 124,000 US schools closed in-classroom learning, yet 95% engaged in emergency assistance to continue providing meals to students outside of school.  One in six kids lived in food insecurity leading into the pandemic.  Now, that statistic is expected to be closer to one in four*.

New England Dairy program experts have worked with school nutrition staff to identify needs in the school’s COVID-19 response plans.  Some of the challenges identified at the school level included the lack of available cold storage and easy transport options for meals.  Local dairy farmers answered that call with the funding of cooler bags for 86 different school districts in New England, so far.

“COVID-19 forced many of our schools to close on March 13th.  The food service program operators had to jump into action to figure out a way to serve these emergency meals outdoors for all our students.  New England Dairy reached out to us in the nick-of-time really,” explained Shari Staeb, Food Service Director, East Hartford Public Schools.  “The cooler bags we received helped us to provide healthy meals and fresh, safe milk to our students and we couldn’t have done it without that support.”

Thousands of school nutrition staffers continue to work tirelessly on the front-lines to keep students and children fed at this critical time.  For some students, the meals they receive at school are the only nutritious food options they get during the day.  And in some cases, this is the only food they have access to period.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has put tremendous pressure on schools throughout the region.  It’s been uplifting to see the community spirit and support local schools have provided to their students and families,” explained Amanda Aldred, Manager of School Nutrition.  “New England Dairy and the dairy farmers of the Northeast are proud to support these efforts and to be a medium through which the farm to school connection can be made.”

“I just want to say thank you to all of the school food service workers,” commented East Canaan, CT dairy farmer Amanda Freund. “We’re so appreciative of everything you’ve done to make sure your students continue to get healthy, nutritious meals.  That is an incredible feat and it took really incredible people to make it happen.”

Local school support efforts have been boosted by more than $37,000 in grants given to 19 Connecticut schools by GENYouth, a national organization which gathers data and generates awareness of challenges and opportunities to improve school wellness.

Based on data collected from school districts to date, New England Dairy estimates that more than 400,000 meals and 25,000 gallons of milk have been served weekly through these programs since school emergency meals began.  It’s an important number, considering nearly 119,000 children in Connecticut are living in poverty**.  Milk provides a unique package of 9 essential nutrients including calcium, potassium and Vitamin D – a nutritional powerhouse for families and students in need.

Schools and nutrition staff, as well as parents and families can find more milk and dairy resources online.

About Connecticut Milk Promotion Board

The Connecticut Milk Promotion Board, administered by the Connecticut Department of Agriculture, was established in 2008. The board consists of nine appointed members and is charged with developing, coordinating and implementing promotional, research and other programs designed to promote Connecticut dairy farms and milk consumption.  Learn more at CTDairy.org.

About New England Dairy

New England Dairy’s mission is to champion the region’s farm families and the nutritious foods they produce.  The non-profit organization does this by sharing the New England dairy story, connecting people to dairy farms, supporting youth wellness in schools and delivering the latest nutrition and sustainability science to health professionals, scientists, media, nutrition professionals and educators.

About GENYouth

GENYOUth specializes in a range of national initiatives including the largest in-school wellness program (Fuel Up to Play 60) in partnership with National Dairy Council and the NFL; an innovative youth social entrepreneurship program (AdVenture Capital); youth and thought-leader engagement (Leadership Roundtables, Student Ambassador Summit, Town Halls); and widely circulated stakeholder-targeted publications.

* – From home.genyouthnow.org

** – From endhungerct.org

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