The coronavirus pandemic is making it harder than ever for families to get the sustenance they need; let alone fresh, nutritious food. Some communities are receiving government or Department of Education (DOE) assistance, but resources are scarce. Our communities are worried and hungry.
For Kent Williamson, our Go!Healthy meals manager, his drive to help our communities comes from feeding needy kids for decades, and he wants to use his passion for food and skills as a trained chef to help as many as possible. Children’s Aid has received precious funds to support our Go!Healthy initiative, expanding it from in the classroom to Grab and Go meals—which means that families can pick up food and take it home, and enjoy it in safety.
Grab and Go supplements morning meals distributed by the DOE, but with so much more to offer. Every day from 3:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m., individuals and families—whether they are part of our program or not—can visit any of our sites offering Grab and Go meals to pick up a well-balanced meal for free. Plus, no appointments are necessary. The mid-afternoon pick-up time makes these meals perfect for a late lunch or early supper!
What makes our Grab and Go meals different?
First off, they are delicious and very healthy. Each meal is carefully planned to be well-balanced, including whole grains, protein, vegetables, and a fruit. No Grab and Go leaves our sites without all of these necessary components. For example, a box might include a piece of grilled chicken on top of fresh salad with a side of whole wheat pita, fruit, and apple juice, or a turkey wrap with a side of celery and carrot sticks with light vinaigrette dipping sauce.
The second thing: everything is super fresh. We start food prep early in the morning so that the boxes are ready to go by 3:00 p.m. pick up.
“The key with our food at Children’s Aid,” said Kent, “is we focus on freshness. We don’t stockpile food. We don’t use processed food. We don’t have a freezer full of things that sit around and pile up. Everything is made fresh, cut fresh, and served fresh.”
And there are no leftovers. Grab and Go meals are here to feed the needy, which there are so many of right now. We don’t turn people away. If someone requests an extra box for a partner or spouse, we’ll give it to them. Why? Because our community requires good food and we have it. Every day we reassess how many meals are distributed, which ranges from 100 to 150 per site, to determine how many more we may need to prepare next week. To date, we are giving out approximately 1,000-1,500 per week across all three sites.
As Director of Food and Nutrition Programs Whitney Reuling shared, “We’re serving food we know that our communities will eat—fresh cooked and healthy. And we’re just really happy that we can continue to do this during these times.”
The Grab and Go program is going to continue to expand as long as our neighborhoods need us, which we think may extend for quite some time. Our cooks and volunteers are often heard saying, “whatever you need, let me know. I’m here to help,” said Whitney.
They say it takes an army, and we have the best health and nutrition focused troop out on the frontlines feeding our community.