Winter Break Isn’t a Break from Meals in Many Schools

The holidays can be a hard time for families already struggling to make ends meet. The threat of children going hungry increases when school is out and guaranteed nutritious school meals are no longer available. While many school districts must close food service operations, an increasing number of programs are making arrangements to provide food pick-up or meal service during the break this year to support their communities.

To ensure students are well-fed during the Winter Break, Madison School District Food & Nutrition Services (AZ) has a Free Bulk Food Box Program for children 18 years and younger. Informational fliers in English and Spanish encourage families to sign up in advance for food boxes pick up on December 23.

All families in the community can get pre-ordered food boxes via curbside drive-through service to ensure minimal contact. The free boxes are filled with five day’s worth of breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks for one child (in bulk amounts.) These will start to be offered on the Thursday before Winter Break, the two Wednesdays during winter break, and potentially every Wednesday after depending on available staffing and community needs. Each box includes a flyer with food safety tips, fun nutrition activities for kids and information on websites with healthy kid-friendly recipes. Bulk boxes include items that families can use for a variety of dishes, including a gallon of fat-free white milk; whole fruits; whole grains like tortillas, loaves of bread and hamburger buns; frozen vegetable medleys, and proteins like hard boiled eggs, sliced deli turkey, sliced cheese and beef patties.

“We have also worked collaboratively with our school social workers to provide a list of COVID-19 resources in the boxes for our families, including food banks and other community crisis resources,” said Cecelia Araiza,
nutrition manager at Madison Park Middle School. “Our social workers are the ‘honorary’ school lunch heroes in this process, since they are referring those families in need to our meal bundles and food box programs every day. It’s all been an amazing community cycle of giving and we are honored to be a part of it in our Madison community.”

After Winter Break, Madison School District Food & Nutrition Services will return to also offering the Free Meal Bundles Program, which has helped serve students through an eight-location meal pick up system since November 30. Recipes featured on the Meal Bundles Program menu include student favorites, like their breakfast burritos, marinara meatballs and Texas toast, Nacho Average Nachos and Hearty Hamburgers – will still be included in the pick-up meals. These types of meals are available daily, as well as weekend bundles for Saturday and Sunday.

Parents and grandparents alike have praised the district for how they have continued to feed the children and their community during these unprecedented times. Below are words of appreciation from a parent at Madison Simis Elementary and a grandparents of a Madison Heights Elementary student:

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