GENYOUth, Denver Broncos and Dairy MAX are working together to feed school children
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Imagine, even a few months ago, that protective gear, sanitation equipment and insulated bags would ultimately be priority items now for school districts to help serve nutritious to-go meals for school children during a global health pandemic.
However, to strengthen the financial commitment for these items to serve the school children relying on government-subsidized school meals during this coronavirus, GENYOUth; a national nonprofit organization dedicated to creating healthier school communities announced on March 30, 2020, the establishment of the COVID-19 Emergency School Nutrition Fund.
So, in addition to previous donations for school meals from America’s dairy farmers, the National Football League, and others through the GENYOUth program in a supportive follow-up announcement Thursday, April 2, Dairy MAX and the Denver Broncos, in partnership with GENYOUth announced they will contribute $50,000 to this new COVID-19 Emergency School Nutrition Fund which will be geared specifically for equipment such as protective gear for sanitation and safety, and resources for school meal packaging, distribution and delivery.
Due to school closures during the pandemic, to ensure students receive the nutrition they need, dietitians and other school nutrition professionals and volunteers have structured new methods of delivering healthy meals through grab and go, drive through pick-up, bus stop drop-off and summer meal sites. This latest funding will support the special equipment and resources to continue providing school children’s meals.
Additionally, as part of this latest COVID-19 emergency fund, GENYOUth created an opportunity for schools to apply for up to $3,000 in grants specifically for these types of equipment and resources to handle the food storage and safe handling processes, as they adapt to these new means of delivering healthy meals.
“This differs because this is a brand new grant in response to the pandemic of COVID-19,” said Melissa Brunk, a registered dietitian and school wellness consultant with Dairy MAX based in Colorado. “Local dairy farmers have always been committed to youth but now more than ever, it’s crucial that we support schools as they adapt to serving meals in unique ways. But now, this new grant will allow school districts to purchase equipment and resources needed in this unusual time of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
The funds can be used for equipment such as soft-sided coolers, insulated bags, traveling carts and serving tables, cold food storage equipment, single-serve packaging, distribution, delivery and sanitation equipment, protective gear for food service sanitation and safety, transportation equipment and other items that school districts wouldn’t normally have on-hand as sites are now outdoors instead of in a cafeteria. Each school district has developed its own plan to best meet the needs of their community, with many offering more than one meal daily to support children and families during this time.
The dietitian explained that milk protein included in each meal, is essential in a child’s diet to build and maintain lean muscle.
“Dairy includes two types of high quality protein with all essential amino acids, which are building blocks of life,” Brunt said. “As part of the National School lunch and National School Breakfast programs, milk is a requirement for each meal. The reason for milk being required, is milk meets three out of four, of the nutrients of concern in a child’s diet, which are calcium, vitamin D, and potassium.” said Brunk. Fiber is the fourth nutrient.
Any public or private school in the U.S. that is participating in the USDA school lunch program is eligible to apply at https://COVID-19.genyouthnow.org.
“Eligibility for funding is not dependent on a school’s geographic area. Each school may apply for up to $3,000” said Ann Marie Krautheim, MA, RD, LD, president and chief wellness officer for GENYOUth.
The grant application has been designed to be very easy to complete, Krautheim said.
“School nutrition professionals may apply online, applications are being reviewed on a rolling basis, and funds will be awarded approximately two weeks after approval. An electronic transfer option is also available through GENYOUth which will provide a faster pace in receiving funds. Schools will have the option of choosing check or electronic transfer when they submit their application,” Krautheim said.
Brunk said they are also connecting with their partners about this latest grant opportunity.
“The Denver Broncos, GenYouth and Dairy MAX will be notifying all our district contacts,” Brunk said. Dairy MAX was previously known as Western Dairy Association — merging in 2018 with Dairy MAX — and now serves as the local dairy council covering eight states including Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, part of Kansas and Oklahoma, as well as New Mexico, Texas and Louisiana. “Across our eight states, and across our nation, schools have communicated in many ways, on websites, social media and communicating directly to parents as to when and where meals are available,” Brunk said. “These resources and equipment will remain at the districts, and they can use them however they choose.”
The COVID-19 Emergency School Nutrition Fund is also part of the program called Fuel Up To Play 60, which promotes the importance of 60 minutes of physical activity every day along with healthy eating. Dairy MAX works in partnership with the Denver Broncos to promote the Fuel up to Play 60 program, which was launched in 2009 through the National Dairy Council, the NFL and USDA.
If there’s a need to consider extending this COVID-19 grant fund opportunity in the fall, program officials will decide closer to that time.
“Currently, the fund has been established to help insure school nutrition professionals have the resources that they need to deliver and distribute school meals (including milk and dairy) to students during this period of COVID-19 school closures,” Krautheim said. “As the status of school closures continues to evolve in the coming weeks, we will closely monitor it and as needed evaluate the status and future of the fund. Our focus is on insuring the 30 million students who depend on the USDA lunch program receive the essential nutrition they need.” ❖
— Hadachek is a freelance writer who lives on a farm with her husband in north central Kansas and is also a meteorologist and storm chaser. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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