Many children from low-income families rely on the breakfast and lunch they receive at school for more than 50% of their nutritional needs. These students may not look forward to weekends or school vacations, when they don’t know where their next meal will come from. MVFB’s Operation Nourish program partners with schools in Greater Lowell and Lawrence to provide nutritious food for these students to enjoy when they are away from school.
The program meets this need for students in a variety of ways, serving up to 1,200 students a month in more than 20 schools. School staff identify students who may be experiencing food insecurity. Many elementary schools receive pre-packed bags of nutritious food for students to take home on the weekends. Middle and high schools may receive a monthly drop-off of a box of grab-and-go food items to be kept in the school nurse or social worker’s office. MVFB has also partnered with Lowell High School, the Greater Lowell Technical High School, and Greater Lawrence Technical High School to create in-school food pantries where students can select the items they need.
The newest component of the program, beginning in the 2021-2022 school year, is the establishment of Mill Markets in several schools in partnership with Catie’s Closet and the Greater Lowell Community Foundation. Small food pantry cabinets are set up alongside the clothing and toiletry items offered by Catie’s Closet so that students can access all of these resources in one convenient, discreet location. The Mill Markets are being piloted in five schools this year with plans to expand in future school years.