An estimated 16 million American children struggle with hunger each year. The severe disruption caused by the pandemic has made it even more difficult for students and families to provide themselves with full meals. The Marion Center Nutrition Services Department is dedicated to helping support and provide for any member of the Marion Center family who is struggling with hunger.
For years, MC Nutrition Services has provided free meals to students from low-income families, serving up to 103,133 free meals to date. These meals were provided at the school, giving children many choices of entrees for breakfast and lunch. When COVID hit Marion Center, a new problem arose. Schools everywhere have been closed, preventing students from accessing free meals.
Ms. Allison Kimmel, Director of Nutrition Services for the Marion Center Area School District, and the rest of her team have come together to make meals available during the lockdown. Schools were closed on Friday March 13 and a few days later, on March 18, the nutrition services team was already distributing meals to students. With federal funding from the USDA Summer Meals Program, MC Nutrition Services was able to provide weekly supplies to families of students in need.
The meals provided varied from week to week, but always contained the USDA required components of lean protein, fruits and vegetables, low-fat milk, and whole grains. Like everyone else, the Nutrition Services team has been challenged to find items available for purchase during lockdown. Nevertheless, families received two full bags of groceries per student each week. Other organizations, like the Indiana County Community Action Program, the Greater Pittsburgh Area Food Bank, and the Salvation Army, also provided extra food to distribute to student families around the need. Every Monday morning, Nutrition Services staff enlisted the help of maintenance staff, building managers, administrative staff and teaching staff to operate a contactless drive-thru where families could pick up their food baskets. safe meals.
While living in a world with flashy technology and greed, it’s easy to get carried away and not appreciate the things we can’t live without. Things as simple as meals may not seem so important, but the work done by the Marion Center Nutrition Services team has a major impact on the community. Students who do not receive adequate nutrition are at risk for motor disorders, anxiety, poor attention spans and even behavioral problems. Marion Center Nutrition Services strives to keep students at their full potential by distributing these meals. Many local families and students depend on their help for food. Over the summer, MC Nutrition Services distributed 62,224 meals and in the last full school year (2018-2019) served 993 daily meals across the district.
Marion Center Nutrition Services is a team of 14 school nutrition professionals who work together to serve meals and smiles to students daily.
“It’s been a tough year, but I couldn’t be more proud of our MC Nutrition Services team,” said Kimmel.
Together, the team has a total of 124 years of service with the Marion Center Area School District. Kimmel describes their work saying, “They’ve been selfless superheroes for our starving children throughout the pandemic.”
The hard work of the Nutrition Services team is often overlooked and unrecognized, but without their services many local families would struggle and go hungry.
Going forward, as Marion Center Junior/Senior High School enters a full virtual education setup, Nutrition Services will continue to work to ensure that no student goes hungry. Students will still be able to receive free support and meals from the Nutrition Services team and the Marion Center Area School District.
“If you want to help, please contact your local school’s nutrition department and ask how you can help them in their mission to feed children well during this difficult time,” Kimmel said. “Also, for families experiencing food insecurity, please reach out to the many other community organizations that can help: Greater Pittsburgh Area Food Bank, ICCAP, Food 911 Facebook Group – Indiana County PA are all available as resources to help those young and old in need.
Although the future is full of uncertainties, one fact remains: Marion Center Nutrition Services will continue to do their best to stop student hunger in our community. Words cannot describe the immense gratitude the entire School District has for the hard work of our Nutrition Services Superhero Team.