A silver lining in the COVID-19 cloud: Food donations for the community

Published on: 
19 Nov 2020
Rina Fa'amoe-Cross

The 2019–2020 Green School Scholars have been busy supporting their districts response to COVID-19. This fall, each of the five scholars are sharing how their work has prioritized sustainability as a core focus and how their successes have meant huge financial savings for their district, improved partnerships across the community, new assets at the schools and more.

Having schools closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic has been hard on everyone, but with any major disruption to society, there are positive outcomes we can celebrate. In Seattle Public Schools, quick action and teamwork by the food service staff has meant thousands of pounds of food have been diverted from the landfill to feed people throughout the community who are dealing with food insecurity.

On March 12, the district closed schools down, and overnight went from normal operations to everyone working and learning at home. Food had already been delivered to school kitchens, but suddenly there were no students there to eat it. District warehouse drivers were able to back haul most of the delivered milk, string cheese, and grab-and-go meals to the central kitchen. The first food donation to community partner OSL Serves (formerly Operation Sack Lunch) in March totaled six pallets of food!

On October 13, 2020, Denny Middle School in West Seattle processed 3,223 boxes of food (a four-day supply) for Amazon delivery to student families

On October 13, 2020, Denny Middle School in West Seattle processed 3,223 boxes of food (a four-day supply) for Amazon delivery to student families

Throughout the remainder of the 2019–2020 school year, while prepping tens of thousands of meals a day for the district’s 26 food distribution sites during remote learning, the central kitchen coordinated the donation of packaged but unserved sandwiches, cheese and milk. OSL Serves picked up the food for distribution in the local area, going to outdoor meal sites, shelters and food banks. Redistributing food not only benefits those in need, it also benefits the environment, since food waste represents 6% of greenhouse gas emissions.

Other community partners have also stepped up to help Seattle Public School families access food while schools remained closed. Fare Start is providing reheatable prepared meals, and the Backpack Brigade and Food For Schools provide nonperishable food items to support families over the weekend. In partnership with the central warehouse, Amazon also delivers food to families without transportation and to students in homeless shelters.

These are challenging times, especially for Seattle students and their families who deal with food insecurity and rely on district meal services. As the 2020–2021 school year has started in a remote learning model, we must continue to work creatively as a team to solve new problems and serve our community. As Mr. Rogers shared, when he was young and saw scary things on the news, his mother would say to him, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”

Learn more about COVID-19 guidance for schools