In addition to providing free access to books and media, libraries have long worked to provide hunger relief in their communities. With food insecurity on the rise in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, libraries have continued to work tirelessly to keep local families fed.
Many libraries across the country have been pursuing partnerships with local food banks and hunger relief organizations to distribute free meals to those in need. Curbside or drive-through pick-up has allowed library staff to pass out the food while maintaining social distancing, mitigating further spread of COVID-19.
Some libraries are distributing books or craft supplies alongside free meals. California’s Monterey County Free Libraries in California are including activity bags with each lunch for kids. “We want to get some nutritious food and fun stuff in the hands of families,” county librarian Hillary Theyer told King City Rustler.
High Point Public Library in North Carolina has managed to keep running their weekly farmers market, which helps local families access fresh groceries, during the pandemic. “Our community has serious food insecurity issues, and we have been involved in addressing that for the past several years. COVID-19 has made the situation even worse,” they reported in a recent American Library Association survey. Their staff have been engaging in outreach to make sure residents are aware that SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance) benefits can be used to shop at the market.
Ohio’s Columbus Metropolitan Library has been offering free summer lunches to local children for nearly two decades; this year, they’re offering grab and go meals in library branch parking lots. “So many children in our community rely on free or discounted school lunches,” Kathy Shahbodaghi, the library’s public services director, told Fox 28. “It is absolutely critical that students have access to healthy, nourishing lunches and snacks. It not only benefits the body, but the mind as well.”
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