New England Dairy Farmers Support Massachusetts Schools During COVID-19 Pandemic Meal Efforts

Author: Rene Thibault

Blackstone, MA 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 farmers, along with other generous partners, have provided school meal programs nearly $255 thousand in total grants and equipment 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 (NED) program experts 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.

In Massachusetts, dairy farm families funded the purchase and distribution of over 525 coolers to support more than 140,000 students from 35 school districts including Blackstone-Millville Regional High School in Blackstone.  “I am very grateful to New England Dairy for providing us with reusable cooler bags, “said Maureen Gonsalves, the district’s Food Service Director.  “It has reassured me that the milk we sent out to approximately 600 children during the COVID-19 shutdown remains safe, cold, and delicious.”

In addition, New England Dairy’s support of schools in Massachusetts was boosted by a generous partnership.  The Greater Worcester Community Foundation donated an additional $10,000 to provide grants to six districts in Worcester County, and NED’s national partner GENYOUth has provided $8,000 to four schools in Massachusetts through their COVID-19 School Nutrition Emergency Fund.

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 Erin Wholey, Director Youth Wellness.  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.”

Thirty-Eight percent of Massachusetts residents reported experiencing food insecurity in March alone**.  Dairy can play a critical role in addressing these nutritional needs.  Milk provides a unique package of 9 essential nutrients including calcium, potassium and Vitamin D – a nutritional powerhouse for families and students.

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

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 Greater Worcester Community Fund

In establishing the Greater Worcester Community Foundation, the founders sought to develop an organization that engaged Worcester County in its own betterment. This neighborly experiment built on self-reliance embraces and engages diverse sectors united in their vision of a better Worcester.  In their first 40 years, they’ve used the simple, accountable and flexible model of the community foundation to build an endowment of $153 million, raise $142 million and distribute $117 million in grants

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.

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