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NHA Reaches One Million Meals Served Throughout Coronavirus Pandemic

Kelsey Pardue  |  June 05, 2020

A commitment to ensuring students have access to nutritious meals, whether that’s throughout the course of the regular school year or during school closures, is what led National Heritage Academies (NHA) to distribute over 1,011,086 meals to date during the coronavirus pandemic.

NHA began working tirelessly the minute schools were closed to ensure students maintained a healthy and nutritious diet, even when they were away from their school building. NHA school leaders worked in collaboration with Preferred Meals, food service provider, to continue serving families in school communities. Select NHA schools that were a meal distribution site invited not just students and families, but community members ranging from ages 0-18.

Since schools were closed in March due to Covid-19, NHA has distributed a total of 448,576 breakfasts and 562,510 lunches, as of May 27.

Dan Kuk, NHA food service specialist lead, reflected how he felt seeing how many meals have been served to families and communities.

“A huge sense of pride and duty come to mind when thinking about where we were just a few months ago to where we stand now with the number of meals we’ve distributed and will continue to distribute,” shared Kuk. “Our partnerships with state Child Nutrition Agencies and Preferred Meals have blessed us with the opportunity to distribute meals to not only NHA families, but also children in our communities.”

Tom Belanger, resident district manager for Preferred Meals, shared how it feels seeing how many meals they’ve been able to serve. “It is truly a testament to not only the current need for meals but the great pride the Preferred Meals team has to make sure we are meeting the needs of the families and students we serve.”

Keeping feeding sites open throughout the school closure was of utmost importance across the charter school network. “What I’m most proud of is not only the ability to open feeding sites, where feasible but also the length of meal distribution times where our sites are open,” Kuk shared. Feeding sites ranged from a two-hour window of distribution to five- to six-hour windows.

For Kuk, serving one million meals pales in comparison to the number of meals served during a “normal” school year. However, what makes this accomplishment so noteworthy is the dedication from so many stakeholders prioritizing and battling food insecurities during the coronavirus pandemic. “Federal and State decision-makers allowed for flexibilities to regulations with one goal in mind: ‘Feed the Children.’ Additionally, Preferred Meals was flexible and pivoted and provided shelf-stable items to families in addition to the unitized meals already on hand,” said Kuk.

Without those on the front lines, reaching the milestone of one million meals served would not be possible.

“I am so thankful for the bravery of the front-line staff to provide this essential service,” shared Kuk. “To be able to partner with so many organizations and individuals who have put the needs of feeding children at the top of the list is nothing short of heroic.”