Children's Hunger Alliance
How did the organization have to adapt their normal plans at both the start of COVID when schools closed early as well as currently while schools transition between in person and remote learning to ensure the children in Ohio were still able to receive help?
When schools were mandated to close in mid-March to help reduce the spread of the pandemic, children began losing access to the school meals they relied on. We immediately began to receive calls from many community partners asking for help to feed the children they serve. We were able to help as many as we could by redeploying grab-and-go meals to organizations that needed them most.
As schools were figuring out alternative ways to continue feeding their students, we also began looking for gaps in high-need areas where kids’ needs were not being met. We collaborated with numerous strategic partners in setting up emergency meal sites to serve grab-and-go meals to children and fast-tracked the launch of our mobile meal service. With the success of the operation in Columbus, we added more routes in Toledo, Canton and Dayton. As a result, we provided more than 2.4 million meals across 180 emergency meal sites across Ohio. We are grateful to the many strategic partners and donors that allowed us to help feed children during this unprecedented time.
How have you had to change accepting help with volunteer work and fundraising efforts as restrictions due to COVID continue to evolve?
We’ve made the safety of our staff and volunteers our number one priority. Volunteers are required to bring masks for their own safety and the safety of their fellow volunteers. When they arrive to help pack meals, we take and record temperatures, and ask for a general assessment of the volunteer’s health. Each volunteer is assigned to a sanitized and socially distanced workstation, equipped with cleaning and sanitizing supplies. We have also begun using a dedicated volunteer management app to streamline the signup process and maintain the appropriate number of volunteers per opportunity to ensure safety protocols. From a fundraising perspective, we have embraced the use of “virtual” meetings through Zoom and other platforms to stay engaged with our donors, and we continue to communicate the need to help us fight childhood food insecurity to our supporters through social media, email newsletters, and other electronic means.
What have been some ways the community has stepped up to help your organization during this time?
We have seen an incredible outpouring of support from individuals and organizations across the state to help advance our mission-driven work during this on-going crisis. Generous donors contributed more than $1 million, providing us the resources necessary to meet the skyrocketing needs to feed kids impacted by the pandemic. However, the need continues to grow. Volunteers graciously donated their time and effort to pack meals for children in need. As we enter the Holiday season, individuals and organizations continue to reach out and provide support through monetary donations, volunteer meal-packing days, and continued awareness and advocacy of our mission to end child food insecurity in Ohio.
During the rush of the holiday season, what is the best way for the local community to provide help for you?
The best way for the local community to provide help and support this holiday season is to get involved and help us in our fight to end childhood hunger in Ohio. Through monetary donations, volunteering, and the sharing and promotion of our work on social media, the local community can play an integral role in helping feed kids-in-need over the holidays and beyond. As a result of the pandemic, many more children are struggling with hunger as their families face economic hardships making it difficult to put food on their tables. Our work feeding children has become even more critical. For more information about Children’s Hunger Alliance, and ways to get involved, can be found on our website or follow us on social media @CHAOhio.