By Sandra Renner
Center for Rural Affairs
Rural communities are showcasing resiliency by ensuring kids are fed during widespread school closures caused by the coronavirus.
With so many uncertainties surrounding us, where the next meal is coming from should not be one of them. This should especially not be a concern for growing young bodies who happen to be our rural legacy.
In West Point, Nebraska, all students will be provided free breakfast and lunch while school is closed. Households pick up meals at regular bus stops in town and in nearby communities the school also serves.
Other rural schools are running drive-through operations and working with local organizations and volunteers to make sure meals are delivered to students who most rely on this food—those receiving free and reduced meals. In addition, Chef Ann Foundation has put together guidance for schools looking for resources to respond during this time.
In 2018, school cafeterias served nearly 5 billion lunches nationwide—three-quarters were free or at a reduced price. A report found that children from food insecure households are more likely to eat school meals and receive more of their food and nutrient intake from school meals than other children. The numbers for free and reduced meals tend to be higher in rural areas.
In rural communities during crisis, we see something inspiring, something defiant. Because we are a resilient bunch, we band together and take care of each other. Rural people forge on, through the unknowns, even when there is no end in sight. In these weeks, and potentially months to come, we will see rural resiliency, strength, and unity that prove no matter the challenge, our rural communities can, and will, rise to the occasion.
-Sandra Renner is the farm and community director for the Center for Rural Affairs. Established in 1973, the Center for Rural Affairs is a private, nonprofit organization working to strengthen small businesses, family farms and ranches, and rural communities through action-oriented programs addressing social, economic and environmental issues.