TABLE Utilizes Rapid Response Fund to Expand Services for Orange County Children
A startling 32% of school-age kids in Orange County participate in the National School Lunch Program. This suggests nearly 1 in 3 local children are at risk for hunger when school meals are not available and have limited access to fresh food at home because of expense and access issues.
While food insecurity is a consistent concern, needs have escalated due to COVID-19. Schools closed in March, leaving children without the free and reduced meals they received on a daily basis and for some, these meals were the only nutritious food they could depend on.
Adding to the situation, some parents have seen their incomes reduced due to decreased work hours, or worse, have seen it disappear completely due to unexpected business closures and layoffs. TABLE, a nonprofit organization that provides healthy, emergency food aid and nutrition education to children living in Orange County, knows some families don’t have the financial cushion to take these hits. Prior to COVID-19, the United States Department of Agriculture reported that nationwide households in the lowest income bracket spent 35% of their income on food compared to 8% for the highest income bracket.
In addition to food insecurity, the safety of these families is now at stake. Grocery delivery services aren’t available through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) when using Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT). Some parents also don’t own a vehicle and must turn to crowded public transportation. These social distancing disadvantages put families at risk of contracting COVID-19.
TABLE is supporting families facing these challenges during this increasingly uncertain time. While schools were open, TABLE’s Weekend Meal Backpack program delivered weekly bags of healthy food to children at their schools. TABLE’s Director of Community Relations, Suzanne Tormollen, explains how they acted quickly to meet the needs of the community after schools closed.
“It was a challenge the first few weeks to figure out the right distribution procedures, make it efficient and safe for our volunteers, and ensure we reached as many kids as possible. Our processes are working now and will help us as we move into the summer months.”
TABLE is dedicated to supporting as many children as possible as closures continue to last. Most summers, TABLE begins with about 450 recipients and ends the season with around 600. This summer they are delivering weekly or bi-weekly bags of healthy food to 670+ children in Orange County and expect to see that number grow into the fall.
“With a small crew of about 25 volunteers and staff members, we will continue to work hard to provide food and to be a sense of security and dependability when all else in these families’ lives is uncertain,” says Tormollen. TABLE will add more children to their Weekend Meal Backpack and Summer TABLE programs as long as they have the volunteers and funding to support the numbers.
Additional funding through United Way of the Greater Triangle’s Rapid Response Fund is helping TABLE meet the growing needs of the community in response to COVID-19. Tormollen explains TABLE is using the grant “to help purchase food for the bags we are giving the children in our program. Each weekly bag contains 10 meals and snacks, milk and/or juice, and fresh produce such as greens, sweet potatoes, cucumbers, apples, and oranges. Ensuring the children we feed are given nutritious food is a priority and the funds from the United Way will help us get the healthy food our kids need and deserve.”
As of June, the Rapid Response Fund has provided $751,015 to 85 organizations in the Triangle and United Way of the Greater Triangle looks forward to awarding more grants in the weeks ahead. To learn more about organizations supported by United Way’s Rapid Response Fund, visit: https://unitedwaytriangle.org/rapid-response-fund-resources