Message from CEO Tammy Anderson-Wise: We are living in an unprecedented and challenging time as COVID-19 continues to spread across the United States. California schools and non-essential businesses have closed their doors, and Californians are being asked to stay at home as a safety measure to stop the spread of this fast-moving pandemic.
Dairy Council of California believes the health of children, families and communities is a top priority, and by putting the health of others first through social distancing and self-quarantining, everyone can take part in helping to contain COVID-19. We believe that by sharing strength, support and resources with one another during this difficult time, communities will emerge from this pandemic strong and intact. We also recognize that families and school communities will need more help than ever as shelter-in-place policies are forcing families to find alternative ways to educate and feed their children.
This is why Dairy Council of California has prioritized and focused outreach efforts on ensuring children, families and all members of school communities are supported while schools are closed.
Dairy Council of California, in partnership with California Milk Processor Board and with the support of California State Senator Richard Pan, No Kid Hungry, California Department of Education and collaboratives throughout California, is leading the statewide effort to support food access by developing new resources and launching a public awareness campaign to promote free school meal programs throughout the state that continue to nourish children.
On March 20:
- We launched HealthyEating.org/SchoolMeals, a landing page that comprehensively aggregates all feeding sites in the state that provide children with free meals. Users can easily self-navigate to find the closest location to their home.
- We also distributed a joint press release via the wire and began promoting the landing page on social media, inviting partners to do the same.
- We shared an e-communication with partners, collaboratives, educators, health professionals, school communities and the dairy community.
On March 23:
- We launched HealthyEating.org/AlimentacionEscolar, the Spanish version of the landing page.
- California Milk Processor Board launched a paid media campaign to drive awareness to the free school meal service programs and increase participation.
Since the landing page launched on Friday, we have already received positive feedback from our education and public health partners with interest in sharing our landing page to their communities, and the page has garnered 3,000 unique site visits. We are committed to continuing to add new feeding locations to the existing site and working with our partners to ramp up their platforms, including No Kid Hungry’s text hotline. We will also provide ongoing support and expertise to statewide and regional communications, supporting collaborative efforts to nourish our most vulnerable children while schools are closed.
As the situation continues to rapidly change, Dairy Council of California is well-positioned to evolve to meet growing needs. Beyond supporting food access, we are also equipping our education and health partners with free online nutrition resources they can provide to families and students for in-home education and enrichment. In just over a week, we have already sent several e-communications with packaged online resources and information via our social channels. Highlights include:
- A roundup of our grade-specific nutrition curriculum, broken out by grade level.
- Information on the landing page that shows school meal service sites.
- The release of a new episode of Ask a Nutritionist, answering “Can I Freeze Milk?”
- Resources to teach agricultural literacy at home, leveraging Mobile Dairy Classroom educational videos to bring the farm to students.
These actions are just the beginning. As we adjust to a temporary new normal, Dairy Council of California intends to find innovative ways to continue to support our community partners in all sectors, including education, health and the dairy industry. We will continue to develop and share online resources, support food access and advocate for milk and dairy’s role in healthy eating patterns as well as supporting optimal growth and development in children. In the coming weeks, we will keep you abreast of the situation and our ongoing efforts.
In addition to sharing with your partners and community the landing page developed to help children access free meal service, you may also be interested in supporting the USDA’s Milk Donation Reimbursement Program as a way to help with the critical need of food access. Under this program, eligible dairy organizations that account to a federal milk marketing order market wide pool and incur qualified expenses related to certain fluid milk product donations may apply for and receive limited reimbursements. This program reduces food waste and encourages dairy donations to food assistance programs that reach individuals in low-income groups. To participate, contact Emily DeBord, Marketing Specialist at USDA’s AMS Dairy Program, 202.720.5567 or firstname.lastname@example.org.