ROCHESTER, Minn. - Rochester students are facing a hunger crisis. Roughly a third of RPS students rely on free or reduced cost breakfasts and lunches, and 1,200 students take home backpacks of food to help feed their families over the weekends. Now that some students are learning entirely online, and elementary students are learning at school two days per week, their access to food is restricted.
To combat this, Channel One Regional Food Bank along with the City of Rochester, Olmsted County, the Rochester Public Library, and Rochester Public Schools are working together to help fill this gap. Channel One is launching a new childhood hunger program that will increase accessibility and the amount of food sent home with students who need it and have no other way to access it. Food from the food shelf will be delivered to the homes of students and their families.
"The economic downturn, the greatest one since the Depression, combined with kids not being in school to easily access those meals, there's your childhood hunger crisis right there. Kids can't learn when they're hungry. When you're hungry, all you can focus on is how you need food," explains Virginia Merritt, executive director of Channel One Regional Food Bank.
Olmsted County allocated $200,000 of CARES Act funding to support the program, and Channel One Regional Food Bank, through the support of the community, will allocate more than $100,000.
Schools are sending permission slips home with kids for families to sign up for the program. Families can also call the Rochester Public Library hotline at 507-328-2822 Mondays through Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. to get signed up.
Channel One also recently received a grant to provide prepared meals to the community. It's currently accepting bids from caterers to make this happen. In addition to feeding the community, the program hopes to create some jobs as well. Click here to learn more information on Channel One's website.