VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — Two Hampton Roads school districts are receiving grant money to help expand their respective meal programs.
No Kid Hungry, which is a national campaign by Share Our Strength, recently gave away $1.6 million in grants to 32 school divisions and organizations.
“No Kid Hungry Virginia, since March of 2020, has awarded more than $4 million in grants across the commonwealth to support organizations with resources they needed to keep communities nourished,” said Sarah Steely, who is the director for No Kid Hungry Virginia. “This might be supplies to transport food safely like coolers and packages. It might be transportation for vehicles and fuel. We’re here to listen to what communities need to keep kids fed.”
Steely says all the school districts across the commonwealth really stepped up to help during the pandemic, especially in Hampton Roads, but Suffolk and Virginia Beach Public Schools stood out.
“They’re two great examples of school divisions that looked at their existing model and said we want to be doing more and feeding more kids and we have the capacity to do so and we just need some support,” she said.
Suffolk Public Schools received a grant of $50,000 for their “Nourishing Our Neighbor” mobile food pantry, which Steely says was located at one school but with the grant funds will be able to get out and have more access to other communities.
Virginia Beach received around $62,000 in grant money.
“In Virginia Beach, they applied for funding to a mobile vehicle to their fleet to take more meals on the road for the future and summer months to cover as much ground as possible,” she said.
Steely says they’ll also use the money for nutritional education programs.
The director says she’s inspired and amazed by what all was accomplished during the pandemic and that meal distribution didn’t stop once school closed for the summer.
“Any year, outside of the pandemic, the summer is often the hungriest time of the year for kids on free and reduced meals. When the last bell rings, it’s freedom from teachers and homework but it’s also a loss of those meals and kids don’t know where they’ll get their next meal,” she said.
Being able to feed Virginia’s kids isn’t just a health issue, according to Steely, but it’s also an economic one. Steely says one out of eight kids in the commonwealth don’t get enough to eat.
And, the school districts and organizations expand their efforts is not only a lifeline for many students but also one for the future of Virginia.
“I literally have goosebumps talking about it. These kids are the future of Virginia. They’re our workforce. When kids stay healthy and nourished, they’re able to be their best selves and thrive and return to school to be active and ready to learn. It’s not just an investment in kids themselves but the commonwealth. I’m so proud of these nutritional departments and organizations that will be able to come out of this stronger and working for the future of our kids,” she said.
To learn more about No Kid Hungry or to work with the campaign, click here.