NEW YORK, Sept. 23, 2020 /PRNewswire/ -- GENYOUth, a national nonprofit dedicated to creating healthier school communities, released today the results of a national survey of U.S. schools¹ revealing that six months into the pandemic, schools are starving for support to feed their students. With the new school year getting underway, GENYOUth is responding to this urgent need with millions of dollars in school meal delivery grants, in-kind resources and the donation of new grab and go meal carts to schools across the nation.
As Alexis Glick, CEO of GENYOUth says, "The only hunger children should face is a hunger to learn!"
School Nutrition Needs Assessment Survey: The Struggle to Feed America's Kids
GENYOUth's survey of 550 school nutrition professionals found that massive school disruptions and record-level unemployment are putting 30 million American kids at risk for hunger. Although U.S. schools have been largely closed to learning since March, they continue to be anchors of community feeding, with school nutrition professionals taking extraordinary efforts to overcome hurdles related to logistics and cost of meal delivery. Among the survey's findings:
- Schools are a viable, reliable source of nutrition for children. As the financial sustainability of families continues to deteriorate, 58% of schools expect the need for school meals to stay the same or increase.
- 100% say that schools continue to operate school meal programs, despite the fact that only 4% of students are offering full-week, in-person learning.
- Schools are deploying multiple food delivery models to feed kids outside the cafeteria and often outside of the school building. 70% are using curb-side pick-up and 57% are offering grab and go meals at school.
- This has created an urgent need for unbudgeted equipment for safe milk and meal storage and transportation, as well as sanitation. Cold storage equipment ranked No. 1 or 2 by 85% of school nutrition professionals, while transportation and serving equipment ranked No. 1 or 2 by 78%.
The School Nutrition Needs Survey results track closely with the number of grant requests for GENYOUth's COVID-19 Emergency School Meal Delivery Fund, which is providing schools with grants to purchase equipment and resources needed to feed students. Through the fund, GENYOUth has provided over $10 million in cash and in-kind to 8,500 schools. With nearly $40 million in grant requests, an additional 9,000 schools still need our help to feed hungry kids. "Over the past 10 years, GENYOUth has raised over $100 million to support the development of healthier school communities, but with COVID-19 our need to raise funds to increase access to school meals is more urgent than ever!" said Glick. "Since the start of the pandemic, the number of food insecure kids has increased 20 percent to one in four. We are approaching Depression-era levels of hunger and the numbers are even worse for Black and Hispanic students. We need to do everything in our power to support, sustain and salute our frontline heroes feeding our nation's kids in U.S. schools."
New Issue Framing Report: Healthier School Communities
With the school landscape vastly different than six months ago, GENYOUth's newly released issue framing report, Healthier School Communities: What's at Stake Now and What We Can Do About It, with support from Midwest Dairy, in partnership with The School Superintendents Association (AASA), the National Dairy Council (NDC) and the Urban School Food Alliance, identifies the opportunities, trends, barriers and reasons why investments in youth wellness and healthier school communities are more important now than ever.
From the inextricable link between a student's cognitive, physical, mental and emotional health, to the role schools play in fostering a wellness environment for all students to live full, productive lives, the report is based on the most current science about the connections between health, well-being and learning. It examines how far the nation has come since the passage of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act 10 year ago, highlighting the roles nutrition and physical activity play in learning.
The report also includes timely commentary from youth wellness advocates including Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Chief Medical Correspondent, CNN, who highlights the importance of developing healthy habits; and Dr. Rajiv Shah, President, The Rockefeller Foundation, who talks about the importance of "meeting the moment" to feed kids during COVID-19.
"As we continue to see record levels of COVID-19-driven hunger, joblessness and health-related inequities, children and families are faced with extraordinary challenges and our work in supporting them must continue. GENYOUth's report will inspire action to assist the crucial role schools play in our students' health and academic success," said Dan Domenech, Executive Director, AASA, The School Superintendents Association, a co-partner on the Report.
Grab and Go Breakfast Cart Donations to 70 Schools
One of the Healthier School Communities report's key findings – that the Grab and Go meal delivery method is an effective way to grow school meal participation – is also cited in the GENYOUth survey as among the top two most needed resources by school nutrition professionals.
Over the past few years, GENYOUth's grab and go cart program has increased breakfast participation by up to 27%, compared with just 1.2% increase in school breakfast participation nationally. For Hunger Action Month, GENYOUth with the support of Corteva Agriculture, UnitedHealthcare, Georgia Power, and funds raised from GENYOUth's 2019 fundraising Gala, has donated a total of 70 breakfast carts to schools in 30 states. As of 2020, GENYOUth will have delivered 500 carts since the program's inception in 2017, increasing access to over 50 million school breakfast opportunities a year.
To learn more about GENYOUth school health and wellness programs or to make a donation and support GENYOUth's Help Put School Meals in the Bag campaign, www.genyouthnow.org/donate or text SCHOOLS to 20222.
¹ The Schools Meals Survey, conducted September 3-10, includes the opinions of 553 school nutrition professionals representing 493 school districts across the country whose school or district was awarded up to $3,000 in funding GENYOUth's Emergency School Meal Delivery Fund. Three quarters (74%) of the respondents work at the district level, and one-quarter (26%) work on the school level.
GENYOUth is a 501c3 nonprofit organization that creates healthier school communities. We convene a network of private and public partners, including Fortune 100 companies and foundations, to raise funds for youth wellness initiatives that give youth the inspiration, motivation and programs to be healthy high-achieving students. GENYOUth's flagship program, Fuel Up to Play 60, enrolls over 73,000 U.S. schools, reaching over 38 million students. Our school nutrition grants increase access to healthy school meals among food insecure students. NFL FLAG-In-School is GENYOUth's fastest growing program with over 20,000+ school communities reaching over 11 million students while AdVenture Capital brings out the entrepreneurial spirit and creativity of students with the support of corporate mentors to solve real world problems. For more information about GENYOUth, visit www.genyouthnow.org.