In this season of reflection and celebration, our hearts are full of gratitude for our neighbors who work in school cafeterias and operate the Commonwealth’s impressive network of non-profits. These Virginians persisted in their pursuit of childhood food security and support for families, despite the ever-present fatigue, staffing shortages, supply chain challenges, and risk of COVID exposure.
We are honored to bear witness to your dedication and bravery. It is a privilege to work with you to end childhood hunger in the Commonwealth, once and for all.
Here are 12 highlights of our year, one for each month of 2021:
- January: We worked with Richmond Magazine to lift up the story of Karim Hasan, an Army veteran and field supervisor with Chesterfield County Public Schools’ Food and Nutrition Services. Karim talks about how his experience as an airborne chef in Iraq and Afghanistan prepared him to feed students during the pandemic. Read more in his “My Take” column: Feeding Our Future.
- February: Virginia capped its 2021 legislative session, championing new opportunities to nourish kids and families, including SNAP expansion and an afterschool meals requirement. Our team supports the implementation of this legislation with grants, data analysis, outreach, and technical assistance, and we are looking forward to continuing the work in 2022.
- March: One year after Virginia schools first pivoted to virtual learning, school leaders from across the state joined No Kid Hungry Virginia for a townhall to discuss how school divisions mobilized meal programs to reach students at home. Check out the recording here, as well as coverage from WAVY and NBC 29.
- April: Larry Wade, Chesapeake Public Schools’ Director of School Nutrition Services, reflected on the March townhall and the resilience of his team throughout the pandemic. Read Larry’s words in The Virginian-Pilot: A heroic effort to feed students in Chesapeake.
- May: No Kid Hungry Virginia and our state partners celebrated National School Lunch Hero Day with a special video and shout-outs from local celebrities like First Lady Pamela Northam, State Superindendent Dr. James Lane, and Secretary of Education Atif Qarni.
- June: Our state director, Sarah Steely, thanked nutrition staff with an opinion piece in The Roanoke Times. Sarah wrote, “Throughout this unprecedented school year, many families have navigated fear, uncertainty and isolation, and yet, thanks to these nutrition programs and the teams that support them, one thing families could consistently rely on was meals for their children.” Read more: Celebrating the nutrition heroes in our communities.
- July: Foode chefs Joy Crump and Stacy Cogswell used their voices to urge Congress to prioritize summer hunger in the upcoming Child Nutrition Reauthorization. Read more from the Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star: Summer can be the hungriest time of the year for kids. Thank you, chefs!
- August: From March 2020-July 2021, No Kid Hungry Virginia awarded over $4 million in emergency grant funding to help connect kids and families to meals during COVID relief and recovery. These grants spanned nearly 70 organizations across the Commonwealth and supported school nutrition departments and community-based organizations, like these groups in Northern Virginia.
- September: We lifted up our voices from Virginia to urge Congress to pass Build Back Better Act and its critical nutrition provisions. Learn more in the Richmond Times-Dispatch: A chance for lasting ideas to combat hunger.
- October: Virginia food security stakeholders marked the anniversary of the Virginia Roadmap to End Hunger with a one-year update. We organized a celebratory visit to Louisa County High School in honor of National School Lunch Week, where Governor Northam applauded school nutrition staff and helped prepare lunch.
- November: We joined our larger Share Our Strength family in raising awareness about the Child Tax Credit application deadline. Check it out: 53,000 VA kids could be missing out on benefit as deadline nears.
- December: In his outgoing budget, Governor Northam included $8.2 million over two years to eliminate the reduced-price school meals category, ensuring that more Virginia students have access to free breakfast and lunch.
To all those who help ensure that every Virginia child has a chance to grow and thrive: thank you. The last 19 months have tested us all in countless ways, but your light keeps shining bright.
Onwards to 2022-
Sarah, Amy, and Arneisha
No Kid Hungry Virginia