For many of us, the transition from elementary school to middle school had its share of worries and anxieties. The pandemic, on top of that, has undoubtedly added more transitions for children.
Jon, a 6th grader in Shakopee Public Schools, has been in the middle of all that this school year. He was excited to start at a new school because it meant going back to in-person learning and seeing his friends. But all the changes, like remembering his locker combination and keeping up with all the different homework assignments, have been too much at times.
One of the changes he has liked, however, has been the bag of food he’s getting every Friday to take home for the weekend. It has a green apple on the bag and inside are different items like peaches, corn, and one of his favorites – spaghetti! He had started noticing gradual changes in the amount and types of foods at home in the past year. Sometimes they had to forego meals because there just wasn’t enough food. Since he started school, they haven’t had to do that.
Jon is not alone in this. In his school, there are about 30 other students who are signed up to receive these weekly meal bags – for free and no requirements needed – as part of the Weekend Meal Program through a partnership with Every Meal.
The winter break and distance learning stirred up old worries of not having enough food at home. He was nervous about not getting the meal bags every week. Relieve washed over him when he found out his family could pick up the same meal bags he was getting at school from the Shakopee Library. The thing he enjoyed the most about accompanying his mom to the library was choosing the meal bag. He’d pick a different color bag every time. This was possible through another partnership, this time between Scott County Library and Every Meal. As part of the Winter Meal Program, residents could stop by their libraries to pick up free meal bags, no questions asked.
Due to rising cases of COVID-19, his school announced going to distance learning soon after students came back from winter break. Jon asked about being able to get meal bags from the Shakopee Library again. His mom’s smile was all he needed to reassure him. This was all thanks to quick action from Scott County Library and Every Meal. When Scott County Library heard schools in the county were moving to distance learning, they got back in touch with Every Meal to get more meal bags and make them available to students during distance learning.
Jon is also not alone in this. Throughout Minnesota, there are many kids who experience disruptions at schools, and consequently their nutrition, as a result of winter breaks and distance learning. Community partnerships like the one between Scott County Library and Every Meal can make all the difference in alleviating the worries of food access associated with these transitions. Schools provide some safety nets for students who are in need, and so do community organizations like libraries. By offering meal bags in these safe and warm public spaces, they help bridge the gap when students can’t access food through school.
For Jon, this has meant less uncertainty around food in the midst of the uncertainties that surround life. His community has come together to ensure he has a consistent and reliable source of nutrition despite all the transitions he’s faced so far this school year. Instead of worrying about food, Jon can focus on being a 6th grader and transitioning to middle school.