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The Rockefeller Foundation Awards New Grants to Support School Food Heroes in Meeting Critical Community Needs During the Pandemic and as the Nation Recovers

NEW YORK, Apr. 30, 2020 – On the eve of School Lunch Hero Day on May 1, The Rockefeller Foundation announced today that it will award three new grants to support schools across the country that are working tirelessly and heroically to address the food needs of millions of school children and their families during the global pandemic. The Foundation also called for immediate and long-term policy and regulatory changes to support schools in meeting these vital community needs.

“Even in the best of times, schools are on the frontlines of our food system, providing nourishing meals to 30 million school children in the United States,” said Dr. Rajiv J. Shah, president of The Rockefeller Foundation. “Today, at a time when healthy food is desperately needed and millions of families have lost their livelihoods, our schools are still meeting the moment even though they’re closed due to Covid-19.”

While more than 120,000 schools are currently closed in the United States, many are continuing to deliver prepared meals in new and innovative ways to help our communities stay as healthy as possible in this time of crisis. Yet, these schools do not know if they will be reimbursed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) for many of the costs they are incurring. As a result, they are faced with the choice between cutting essential services now or potentially absorbing huge budget cuts in the next school year as the country emerges from the immediate crisis. Those cuts could be even more devastating given the strong likelihood that many more families and their children will be experiencing food insecurity and depend on schools for nutrition assistance due to the downturn in the economy and the surge in unemployment.

To support schools and their food teams now and looking toward the future, the Foundation announced three grants totaling $1.4 million to three organizations: Urban School Food Alliance; GENYOUth; and World Central Kitchen. These new grants continue the Foundation’s long-standing support for school food and bring its total commitment to-date in response to the global pandemic to $50 million.

The Foundation’s new grants include:

  • Urban School Food Alliance has received a grant to seed the multimillion-dollar Student Emergency Food Access Fund to address the immediate needs of school food programs for large urban districts. The Foundation’s grant will support Dallas Independent School District, which typically serves 153,000 students, 86% of whom live at or near poverty according to federal guidelines. Along with support from the No Kid Hungry campaign and others, the Foundation’s grant seeks to leverage additional contributions from other funders and individuals in a pooled fund under a fiscal sponsor, the Windward Fund. “Demand for the support provided by our schools is high and the timeline for execution could not be more urgent,” said Katie Wilson, Executive Director for Urban School Food Alliance. “This fund will make it possible to help close the gap between what communities need and the resources schools have to meet that need.” Dr. Shah added, “This fund meets a significant and rapidly changing need and we hope other foundations, companies, and individuals will recognize the urgency of helping children and families now.”
  • GENYOUth will receive a grant to support a school nutrition fund that will, in turn, provide grants directly to at least 170 rural and suburban schools with immediate needs to keep their emergency school food programs running. Grants will be up to a maximum of $3,000 each and will help schools provide meal transport and delivery, purchase protective equipment for staff, and cover other extraordinary costs associated with feeding during the pandemic. The Foundation’s grant will also support adoption of SAP4Kids, an innovative, mobile-friendly, web-based app created in partnership with GENYOUth to enable families to identify school and community food security resources available at more than 26,000 local sites across the country. “We are providing vital resources to support school nutrition personnel as they work tirelessly to prevent food insecurity in rural and suburban communities during the COVID-19 school closures,” said Alexis Glick, CEO of GENYOUth. “And we are proud to partner with SAP in the creation and adoption of mobile-friendly tools that are game-changers in helping families to locate vital resources, and match demand for resources in crisis or natural disaster with available supply, now and in the future.”
  • World Central Kitchen will receive a grant to fund grab-and-go sites where families can collect meals in drive-through settings operated by school districts in Newport News, Va. and Augusta, Ga. The grant will provide 100,000 meals to families in need, filling a critical gap since schools cannot get reimbursed for these meals by USDA. “School food professionals are first-responders in any crisis and we’re certainly seeing the critical role they’re playing during the coronavirus pandemic,” said José Andrés, founder of World Central Kitchen. “This grant will make it possible for us to work with local organizations to make sure kids and vulnerable populations receive the meals they need during these uncertain times.”

“The philanthropic sector is rising to the challenge of responding to Covid-19,” said Dr. Shah, “But, to meet the scale of this need will also require continued and increased government action.”

To support schools in providing children with access to nutritious food they would otherwise be getting during school, the Foundation called on the USDA to extend until September all waivers that make it easier for schools to feed children and families. Waivers that allow a parent or guardian to pick up food on behalf of their children, permit schools to deliver meals to families and other waivers are currently set to expire on June 30, 2020. The foundation also highlighted the need to ensure schools will be reimbursed for the costs they have incurred by serving the critical frontline role of keeping millions fed during this crisis. School districts need the assurance that the extraordinary costs they are incurring to get food to mobile sites, and to provide gloves and masks for school food professionals and others who are handling meal preparation and distribution, will be covered.

“We need to work together to make sure our schools and their nutrition professionals have the resources they need—backed by common-sense policies and regulatory requirements—to meet the critical need for healthy food now and in the months and years to come,” said Dr. Shah.

To that end, the Foundation is working in collaboration with its grantees, other foundations, and researchers to identify and build understanding about a set of policy and regulatory initiatives to support schools now while ensuring that food delivery through schools is as accessible and healthy as possible as the country recovers from the crisis and grapples with increased food insecurity.

The new grants are part of the Foundation’s overall response to the global pandemic, as described in Dr. Shah’s 2020 Annual letter. To read the letter in its entirety, visit

About The Rockefeller Foundation
The Rockefeller Foundation advances new frontiers of science, data, and innovation to solve global challenges related to health, food, power, and economic mobility. As a science-driven philanthropy focused on building collaborative relationships with partners and grantees, The Rockefeller Foundation seeks to inspire and foster large-scale human impact that promotes the well-being of humanity throughout the world by identifying and accelerating breakthrough solutions, ideas, and conversations. For more information, sign up for our newsletter at and follow us on Twitter @RockefellerFdn.

About Urban School Food Alliance
The Urban School Food Alliance was created by school foodservice professionals in 2012 to address the unique needs of the nation’s largest school districts. The Alliance consists of 12 of the nation’s largest school districts representing more than 3.5 million students. Collectively the Alliance members serve 635 million meals every year. Donate to the fund or learn more at

About GENYOUth
GENYOUth was founded in 2010 through an unprecedented public-private partnership between the National Dairy Council and the National Football League in collaboration with the U.S. Departments of Agriculture, Health and Human Services, and Education. The organization’s mission is to create healthier school communities across the country. Since its inception, GENYOUth has provided over $100 million in grant funding and equipment to schools. For more information about SAP4Kids and the Resource Locator Map, visit and to make a donation or learn more, visit or text SCHOOLS to 20222.

About World Central Kitchen
Founded in 2010 by chef and humanitarian José Andrés, World Central Kitchen (WCK) uses the power of food to heal and strengthen communities in times of crises and beyond. WCK has transformed the field of disaster response to help communities recover and establish resilient food systems. Since its founding, WCK has served more than 18 million meals. WCK has served 4 million meals to date during the COVID-19 pandemic. Learn more at

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