KP Curbside Meals Program Works to Support Families in NeedJan 29, 2021 04:08PM ● By Brendan Zimmerman
Before the pandemic began, food insecurity was already a growing issue in the state of Massachusetts. But now, after nearly eleven months of disruption and displacement from COVID-19, food insecurity has more than doubled across the commonwealth.
Fortunately, the King Philip school district has been rising to the occasion to meet this need.
In normal times, a meal program has always been offered for students and families. But now, with the pandemic, the meal program has evolved into a curbside pickup for easy access and to keep workers and families socially distanced. And numbers have shown that residents across the state need the support of food programs like this more than ever.
According to The Boston Globe, as of last November Massachusetts saw the highest percent increase of residents facing food insecurity among all the states in the union. The number? A 59% increase since 2018 – meaning roughly more than 1 million Massachusetts residents are now struggling to eat. The child food insecurity rate has also worsened in Massachusetts, with a 102% increase compared to pre-COVID numbers.
These dire numbers have even more resonance locally. The Boston Globe also reported that Norfolk County in particular saw a 163% increase in child-related food insecurity in 2020 compared to 2018: the highest percent change in child food insecurity in the entire country.
With such shocking numbers, the KP school district has been working hard to accommodate families during this time.
According to Mary AnnReynolds, the Director of Food Services for King Philip, the curbside meals program offers two different options due to the hybrid learning system that is currently running at King Philip schools.
If the student is learning remotely, seven breakfasts and seven lunches are offered. If a student is physically in school, seven breakfasts and five lunches are offered instead.
There is a large variety of food options offered each week, and they adhere to the state guidelines for a healthy meal for students with plenty of vegetables, salads, and proteins in rotation.
The meal program is offered to high school and middle school students, along with additional meals being offered for their families as well. And, to help match the rising local food insecurity, the curbside meals program is also currently being offered to anyone who may need it, whether they have a student at King Philip or not.
Confidentiality is kept, and the provided meals are meant to help take the burden off of families and individuals during this difficult, uncertain time.
Reynolds spoke about the importance of the program.
“Food insecurity is an issue no matter what town you're in or what state you're in,” she said. “I think it's brought to light that every family is fragile, that things can be going along great and then in an instant, you can lose your job, or somebody gets sick, and then all of a sudden, you're in need.”
The program is able to adjust to any food restrictions, allergies, and diets that students and their families may require as long as they are informed ahead of time. As of now, the school is providing a large quantity of meals per week, suggesting a huge need. According to Reynolds, the program, in just one week in January, delivered 1,169 breakfast meals.
King Philip Superintendent Paul Zinni also gave his thoughts on the program’s importance.
“Kids can’t focus on the learning at hand when they haven’t had a nutritious meal and they’re hungry,” he said. “And certainly, in every district around the country right now, we’re seeing an increase of families that have difficulty accessing food.”
Meal distribution happens from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and 4 to 5 p.m. on Wednesdays at King Philip Regional High School. The pickup location is at the back of the building, with a sign on the glass windows of the cafeteria indicating where to go.
Once you arrive, you just need to inform workers if the student is hybrid or remote that week, and how many kids you need meals for.
On the surface, it can seem as if things are operating normally and that our community is the same as it was before COVID-19. But numbers can tell a different story. Though it seems that the end of the pandemic is near, its damaging effects still linger.
For any questions regarding the curbside meals program, reach out to Mary Ann Reynolds at 508-384-1000 ext. 3338 or at [email protected]