As the holiday season rapidly approaches, we are once again reminded of the abundant blessings in our lives. However, this year’s turn of events has added a newfound sense of gratitude.
I think we can agree 2020 surprised us all. COVID-19 arrived unexpectedly and life as we knew it changed in the blink of an eye. Thanks to this lousy virus, even Thanksgiving might look a little different for Texans this year. Just last week over 24,000 Texans lined up at The North Texas Foodbank ahead of the holidays.
This is a good time of year to think about the importance of access to food not just for Thanksgiving, but all year long. Especially for our school children.
Keeping Texas healthy and strong during this pandemic includes making sure our schoolchildren have access to fresh, healthy meals regardless of whether their school is closed.
The Texas Department of Agriculture administers the federal school nutrition programs responsible for serving nearly 5 million school meals a day across the state. However, when spring break 2020 turned into a long and unwelcome hiatus, TDA’s Food and Nutrition division partnered with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and school nutrition professionals to find innovative ways to continue serving healthy meals to Texas schoolchildren.
Immediately, I contacted USDA to request waivers that allowed us to offer grab-and-go meals and home delivery. Additionally, I requested waivers that gave parents the opportunity to pick up meals and for some meals to be available even on the weekend. USDA responded in record time — giving peace of mind to already overburdened parents that their child would still have access to the meals they would have received during the school day, and so desperately needed. It’s just the right thing to do.
And to help families find those meals, we worked with our partners at the Texas Education Agency to produce a School Meal Finder map. Now, parents can visit TxSchools.gov and find the feeding location for their district or area.
I’m proud to say national researchers gave Texas the highest possible scores for communicating with families and providing guidance for schools during March and April of the pandemic.
Our team at DA works hard to ensure Texas school nutrition staff have what they need to succeed, even when disaster strikes. Whether it’s a hurricane slamming into the Texas coast and flooding schools or a virus running rampant through our communities, we’re there to make sure school children get the meals they need.
But we’re not alone. School nutrition is a team effort. Working alongside our school nutrition teams during this pandemic has proven we can all build a healthy future for the Lone Star State.
So this Thanksgiving, as you sit down to enjoy a special dinner — either with friends and family or alone — remember to raise your fork for the frontline food nutrition workers at schools across Texas who never wavered during this crisis to make sure our schoolchildren got the food they needed.
And of course, also keep in mind the farmers and ranchers that, regardless of the virus, worked from sunrise to sunset to provide the food for our Thanksgiving table.
May God continue to bless you and your family. Have a happy Thanksgiving and a peaceful and joyous holiday season!