CA Schools, Families Get Help Coping in Pandemic

Suzanne Potter | California News Service
A volunteer with Save The Children hands out school supplies in California as part of the RISE initiative. Photo Credit: Shawn Millsaps/Save the Children

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Before the pandemic, one in five children in California lived with hunger. Now, it’s one in four, so the media company Discovery, Inc. is partnering with nonprofits to feed millions of kids and make sure their basic needs are met.

Alexa Verveer, executive vice president of public policy, corporate and government affairs for Discovery, Inc., said the company’s media platforms, which include HGTV, TLC, the Food Network and ID, reach 25% of American women on any given night.

“We’re able to galvanize the power of our reach and the fact that we have passionate audiences in order to truly make an impact on important issues,” Verveer said.

She added the channels will coordinate with business partners to raise money for the groups Save the Children and Share Our Strength, and publicize opportunities to contribute, volunteer and get involved in advocacy efforts.

Kathy Saile, California director of the No Kid Hungry campaign, is working with Discovery’s Turn Up! Fight Hunger initiative to help school districts distribute bags of food now that school is mostly online.

“When schools started closing in March and they were switching over to the curbside pickup, they needed a lot of PPE, and a lot of extra packaging and other equipment, and we were able to grant nearly $4 million,” Saile said.

The campaign also promotes programs that let elementary-age kids eat breakfast right before the bell rings, and funds grab-and-go breakfasts for high schoolers between classes.

They’re also pushing Congress to extend the pandemic Electronic Balance Transfer program that provided income-eligible families with money on cards to be used in grocery stores.

Will Dittmar, state director in California and Washington for Save the Children, works with Discovery’s RISE program, which stands for ‘Reducing Inequality and Supporting Empowerment.’ They help meet families’ basic needs in low-income rural parts of Fresno and Tulare Counties, in the Morongo Valley and the Palmdale/Lancaster area.

“That’s what we do at Save the Children is needs assessment,” Dittmar said. “And then, immediately pivoting to find the resources to meet those needs; everything from direct cash resources for families to grants to schools to make sure they can continue their feeding programs in the summer.”

He said RISE has spent millions on emergency food boxes, and supports educational programs for 9,500 kids at 26 rural schools in the Golden State.

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