Act now: Food security and basic needs during school closures

In response to the COVID-19 public health crisis, the Corvallis Public Schools Foundation is ramping up its efforts to meet k-12 students’ basic needs during mandatory school closures.

In partnership with the Corvallis School District, the Foundation will be supporting efforts to bolster students’ food and hygiene supplies and prevent families from spiraling into homelessness. The organization’s focus amidst the current pandemic is on families without reliable transportation and those coping with illness, reduced income, and chronic food insecurity.

The Foundation Board of Trustees set a goal of raising $50,000 over the next six weeks to aid CSD in this work. To kick-start the campaign, Citizens Bank announced yesterday that it will match the first $15,000 in contributions.

Meeting Immediate Needs

School personnel began distributing supplies at free meal sites this week, with home delivery for high-need families who were unable to visit the sites.

Family outreach advocates packed and distributed over 200 supplemental food and hygiene bags. Many supplies, including $6,000 in grocery store gift cards, were donated by individuals and faith communities.

College Hill High School Principal Eric Wright also delivered 25 bags to his students. “This is just a great way to remind our families that we see them, that they are known, and that we want the best for them,” Wright commented. “We are so much more than a learning community. We are a family.”

Specific needs are changing on a daily basis, but this week organizers emphasized the need for peanut butter, breakfast cereal, pasta, and pasta sauce. New puzzles, games, coloring books, and family activities for a variety of ages were also in demand.

Preparing for the Long Term

With weeks of school closures ahead of us, the Foundation is focused on raising funds for an unusually long stretch of meeting basic needs.

“We are working hard to find efficiencies, build partnerships, and provide for vulnerable kids in a difficult situation,” explained CPSF Executive Director Liv Gifford.

Nearly 1,900 students in the Corvallis School District are enrolled in the free lunch program, indicating an income of $2,790 per month ($33,475 annually) or less for a family of four.  Nearly 500 additional students qualify for reduced-price meals.

Nutritional needs are intensified when school is closed. As utility and rent bills accumulate, families may face stark choices.

“We’re committed to doing everything we can to help,” said Mike Sheets, CPSF Board Chair. “This situation is intensifying the needs of families who were already in a precarious place.”

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