Rural school districts working to help food insecure students in light of COVID-19 closures

Posted at 5:41 PM, Mar 18, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-19 14:28:19-04

*Este artículo también está disponible en español. Stephanie Garibay ayudaron a traducir el artículo del inglés. Si desea leerlo, haga clic aquí. (English Translation: This article is also available in Spanish. Stephanie Garibay assisted in translating the article from English. If you'd like to read it, click here.) *

School districts all over Idaho are choosing to close their doors before spring break as a precaution to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

For students who depend on school for breakfast and lunch, Marsing Schools Superintendent Norm Stewart says the early school closure can have a huge impact, especially in rural areas.

"In a rural area such as Marsing, you have very limited resources," Stewart said.

According to census data, 36.4% of people living in Marsing are below the poverty level, and the community also has high rates of homelessness.

The community also has a high rate of migrant households.

Earlier this year, the Marsing School District opened an innovative community center called "The Hub" to help those in the community who may be struggling. Stewart says The Hub has become central in the District's plans for helping food insecure students who are left without meals while school is out.

"We're definitely trying to meet the needs as best as possible for the community and trying to meet the need, and we'll continue looking at how we can expand," Stewart said. "Yesterday using our classified staff, we made personal phone calls to every family in the district to asses their needs--to find out what, if any needs they had."

The Hub's goal is to remove barriers and bring services to the community, all in an easily accessible location. The Hub provides a food pantry (stocked by the Idaho Foodbank), a Head Start Program, Mental Health Services, and Migrant Family Liason Services.

As a precaution to prevent the spread of COVID-19, Stewart says The Hub has begun moving toward minimizing contact and practicing social distancing. Anyone accessing the food pantry will be doing so using a "curbside pickup model."

In Caldwell, the school district says they will offer free meals for children Wednesday, March 18, Thursday, March 19, and Friday, March 20.

Children age 18 or younger will receive breakfast and lunch at designated distribution sites throughout Caldwell. The District says the child must be present to receive meals and does not have to be a Caldwell School District student. Adults can buy a sack meal for $4.

The District says meals will be distributed from 10 to 11 a.m. from school buses operated by Caldwell School District teachers, staff, and parent volunteers from the following locations:

  • All elementary schools: Lewis and Clark, Lincoln, Sacajawea, Washington, Wilson, and Van Buren
  • Caldwell High School
  • Farmway Village by the community center
  • Hardy Estates - two locations: front office and at Maverik and Sage
  • 5th & Galveston
  • 14th and Elgin
  • Avon Trailer Park at Summer Drive turnaround
  • Manchester and Beech at the park
  • Country Village at the playground
  • Mountain View trailer park near the probation office at Georgia and Locust
  • Indian Creek trailer park office

In the Nampa School District, Family Community Resource Centers are responding to provide food, hygiene kits, and other basic needs to families and students who may go without while school is closed.

The centers also work to provide case management and case support around transportation, housing and academic support. While school is out, those forms of support are being put on the back burner so the centers can focus on the pressing needs of their food-insecure students.

"Oftentimes the only times some students get food is when they're at school," said Heidi Rahn, Federal Programs Director for the Nampa School District. "When we're closed, we are just working to find out, 'Who are those students that have that food insecurity and how can we help?'"

The District is working on compiling lists of students that may have a need, and from there will begin making calls to find out what their needs are and how the centers can help. From there, Rahn says volunteers will work to deliver food and other items--all while working to minimize contact and maintain social distancing.

"We're just going to do door stops, so just kind of drop it at the door," Rahn said. "That way the social interaction piece is maintained for everybody."

Rahn says the program already has those who utilize the centers' resources regularly, but the District expects the need to increase and wants to reach out to those who might not be prepared for a long period without school-provided breakfasts and lunches.

"Most families that have the need for support get it at school in the morning and at lunch, but now they're not going to have that," Rahn said. "I anticipate our need to increase."

Others with the centers say they're here to help, but they couldn't do it without the support of the community.

"You're going to be fine, we're going to work together to make sure your kids are taken care of," said Mari Ramos, Family Community Resource and Engagement Coordinator with Nampa Schools. "It's so great to be able to tell these families 'We can help you because our community cares about you. We can provide this because our communities want your kids to be fed."

If you're in the Nampa School District and need support, reach out to the following Family Community Resource Center locations:


Mari Ramos * (208) 565-8949 *


Jennifer OwenTillotson * (208) 696-8451 *


Marisol Garcia * (208) 696-8454 *


Ofelia Sullivan * (208) 696-8440 *


Luigi Novoa * (208) 696-8198 * * HOURS MON-FRI 12:00PM - 4:00PM

If you'd like to donate, click here.

Middleton Schools are offering a “Grab and Go” food service for families over Spring Break. The food offerings will be distributed between 11:00 am and 1:00 pm at the Middleton Middle School Annex A at the front entrance weekdays through Friday, March 27.

If the school closure goes beyond spring break, distribution will continue. Children must be present to receive bagged meals.

In Emmett, Grab-n-Go breakfast and lunch bags will be distributed, starting Thursday, March 19, through Friday, March 27, at Emmett Middle School curbside between 11 am and 1 pm for children, aged 1-18. Children must be present to receive bagged meals.

Child Nutrition Director Tyree White, who has dubbed this effort “Lunch Lady Super Hero Meals” said nutrition staff will be wearing capes Thursday.

Emmett Superintendent Craig Woods said federal USDA waivers allow for the free food distribution, much like the summer feeding program.

“We’re including spring break because we know that the employment picture for many families is uncertain at this point and many families have had to cancel their spring break plans because of COVID-19," Woods said.

“This is an unprecedented time and we need to react in a way that will help our residents,” Woods said. “I appreciate the time and dedication that our staff has given to provide these services.”

If schools remain closed beyond Spring Break, a food distribution plan will be activated. However, the distribution method may be different, details will be released March 29, the District said.

*6 On Your Side is working with the Idaho Statesman to create more videos and web articles in Spanish regarding the coronavirus.

6 On Your Side and Idaho Statesman are committed to providing as many people as possible with the most accurate information.

The Spanish language videos and web articles can be found on our website and also on The Idaho Statesman's website. Although the videos start with 6 On Your Side and Idaho Statesman, they will also be available through other news outlets throughout the state.

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