A Source of Stability: Dairy MAX and Partners Keeping Kids Fed During Pandemic
While the COVID-19 pandemic has caused challenges for so many, Dairy MAX’s commitment on behalf of local dairy farmers to continue feeding youth has not stopped. By putting new plans in place and working with local and national partners, $673,554 in donations have helped schools throughout the region continue serving meals and dairy products despite school closures.
At the onset of the pandemic, Dairy MAX immediately shifted work with one goal in mind: making sure that food, specifically dairy, gets in the hands of those who need it most. This included a special focus on children, especially the 8.5 million locally who depend on school meals for their dairy nutrition. Feeding America estimates up to 18 million children in the U.S. might become food insecure this year as a result of the pandemic, with states in the Dairy MAX region representing some of the most vulnerable populations.
To help prevent an increase in food insecurity, Dairy MAX has coordinated and supported several efforts to continue feeding kids. Dairy checkoff partner GENYOUth launched its COVID-19 Emergency School Nutrition Fund in March to provide school nutrition departments with funding to purchase resources and equipment for daily distribution of meals. GENYOUth strives to make a lasting difference in children’s lives by generating outside funding to support youth wellness programs like Fuel Up to Play 60. When schools began closing due to COVID-19, GENYOUth stepped in to raise money and make sure kids continue getting proper nutrition.
In addition to promoting the GENYOUth grants, Dairy MAX tapped into local partnerships to leverage additional funds and provide grants to schools in the region. To date, Dairy MAX and partners have contributed over $673,554 monetary and in-kind donations. Partners include Aramark, Blue Bell, Dallas Cowboys, Denver Broncos, New Orleans Saints, Kendra Scott, Legends Hospitality, Liviri Coolers, Texas Lottery Commission and YETI Coolers. In the Dairy MAX region, 337 grants have been awarded to-date, which means an average of 440,001 meals are being served each day due to the grant funds. Additionally, across the nation 46 million school meals have been provided through the GENYOUth fund.
“As schools began closing across our region, our team’s priority was to ensure all students had access to school meals, and that those meals included milk and other dairy options,” said Alyson Kirchner, Dairy MAX vice president of school marketing. “I am proud of the team’s agility and thankful for the countless partners who have rallied together to continue offering school meals to the children who need them. And of course, none of this would be possible without our dairy farmers.”
Local school districts who received grants have been grateful for the support.
“The grant from Dairy MAX was extremely valuable in enabling the Alief ISD Nutrition Department at Alief Middle School to continue to serve our community breakfast and lunch curbside during this unprecedented time,” said a representative of Alief ISD. “Thank you so much to all the dairy farm families for this generous grant to help with resources needed for meal distribution and delivery.”
In addition to grant funding, the Dairy MAX team continues supporting school districts by:
- Developing resources to help food service workers shift from traditional school milk to bulk milk purchases and distribution
- Providing cold storage solutions
- Helping navigate USDA waivers
- Providing PPE to school food service workers
To learn more about Dairy MAX’s response to COVID-19, click here.