In England this past pandemic year, there was for a time an extraordinary reluctance by the government to extend traditional school meal service during closures. This in spite of plentiful evidence that families with low incomes were struggling to both pay the rent and feed their families. Pandemic or no, school-provided nutrition had played a growing role in preventing starvation for children living in households with low incomes.
Government indifference and recalcitrance became a national scandal as activists, spearheaded by a charming young football player, fuelled public opinion and forced the government to expand its school meal program.1
The English “bureaucrats-know-best gang” (who didn’t), and the prime minister (who also didn’t), could well have looked across the Atlantic for a lesson in innovation and compassion.
Far from penny-pinching undernourished young children, the New York City school system extended its daily meals programs to include hungry members of the community. No, they weren’t enrolled in the education system. They were just local. And hungry. It was, and continues to be, a big help for people who are teetering on the edge of homelessness as well as people staying at emergency shelters and people living outdoors.
Read more about this ambitious undertaking by one of the largest meal service institutions in the country, in CIVIL EATS: What New York City Schools Learned Feeding Millions During the Pandemic