In March, when schools were forced to close their doors, Meals On Wheels for Kids was born. With around 40% of students choosing virtual or semi-virtual learning options, according to Pinellas County Schools, the need for this service continues.
MOW4K delivers meals and shelf-stable food to children and their families who now attend school from home through virtual or online learning.
The decision to keep students at home also came with unforeseen challenges; meals normally provided in school cafeterias were no longer available to some who need it most. According to the Annie E. Casey Foundation, in 2016 51% of students in Pinellas County were found eligible for free or reduced lunch. In some instances, school meals are the only meals impoverished children eat for the day.
“Kids who don’t get enough to eat – especially during their first three years – begin life at a serious disadvantage. When they’re hungry, children are more likely to be hospitalized and they face higher risks of health conditions like anemia and asthma. And as they grow up, kids struggling to get enough to eat are more likely to have problems in school and other social situations,” according to feedingamerica.org.
MOW4Kids is an alternative for kids who are not able to access meal distribution sites throughout the county, or who have difficulty accessing open food pantries. MOW4Kids currently serves St. Petersburg and Lealman in South Pinellas County, Wimauma in South Hillsborough County, Dade City in East Pasco County and Clearwater in Pinellas County.
“At the core of this Meals on Wheels program is nutritious food delivered to the homes of children and their families,” says Lauren Vance of Network to End Hunger. “Children may also experience an increase in overall nutrition, food security and feelings of social connectedness from volunteers stopping by.”
Sign up to volunteer at mealsonwheelsforkids.org.
The Network is currently accepting donations at networktoendhunger.org to support the MOW4Kids program. A donation of $20 provides a week of meals delivered to a child in need. For more, call 813-344-5837.