Melissa Hunter, McLane Global

Melissa Hunter, director of marketing for McLane Global, encourages school district administrators to visit mealstoyou.org to see if their students may qualify for shelf stable meals mailed to their homes.

McLane Global, a leading food and logistics company, is calling on rural school districts to sign up for home delivery of free meals to kids.

Through the Emergency Meals-To-You Partnership, eligible participants can get more information and enroll at www.mealstoyou.org.

The program is a public-private partnership between USDA, Baylor Collaborative on Hunger, McLane Global, PepsiCo and others, and is designed for emergency home delivery of shelf-stable meals to students in rural areas.

Distribution and delivery have already begun in Louisiana, Maine, Texas and Virginia, and partners are quickly ramping up to reach a goal of providing more than 1 million meals per week across rural America.

“We are working as quickly as we can to spread the word with educators, school administrators, superintendents, teachers, and even parents to let them know the program is here and ready to help support their communities, said Melissa Hunter, director of marketing for McLane Global. “Our goal is to get the word out to those in the education community, to get their school districts enrolled so that as many students as possible can sign up and start receiving meals directly to their house.”

The new program was successfully tested as a pilot program last summer in Texas. Rural students received boxes of food products through the mail (USPS) or UPS (United Parcel Service).

“USDA could put the call into our team and say, ‘That program that was so successful last year, we need to deploy that. We need to take that across the country to help serve all of these students who will be in need,’” Hunter said.

Financing for the program comes from USDA’s Summer Food Service Program (SFSP). The SFSP helps children ages 18 and under receive nutritious meals when school is not in session.

Children in any school district in any state that meets eligibility requirements can sign up for meals.

To participate, school district administration can visit mealstoyou.org. The school district will need to provide documentation that it participates in the National School Lunch Program, and that at least 50 percent of enrolled students are eligible for free or reduced-priced meals. In addition, the school must be closed at least four weeks and fall under the designation of rural.

Determination of rural status is available at: https://www.fns.usda.gov/rural-designation.

Hunter added that a wonderful team at Baylor Collaborative on Hunger and Poverty is ready to help eligible school food authorities add each qualifying school to the enrollment section and provide outreach materials for families.

The program is being activated because social distancing can make it impossible for rural youth to get to town. Many summer food service programs typically run congregate meal sites. Students normally can go to that site in the summer months or during school closures to receive breakfast and/or lunch support meals.

But rural students can have logistical challenges reaching congregate meal sites. COVID-19 shelter-in-place orders can also make it difficult for students to get meals. Despite the challenges, a myriad of school districts, educators and food service employees are working hard to continue to provide meals to students. Children and families are stopping at “grab and go” sites set up throughout towns each day.

“Rural students have those challenges of getting to those meal sites, so that is why the emergency meal delivery program is really essential,” Hunter said.

Each child that qualifies for meals receives their own box every two weeks.

“When we did this pilot program last year with Baylor, it was such an honor,” she said. “We all knew that every meal kit that went out the door was going to a specific child without access to traditional meals. It was a kid who didn’t need to worry about where they were going to get their next meal. We are just proud that we can help thousands of children and their families across the country during such an unsettling time.”

For more information, please visit mealstoyou.org, and talk with your school district administration about signing up for this program.