AUSTIN, TX — Austin City Council member on Thursday approved measures aimed at allocating up to $2.2 million in emergency federal funds to provide meals for caregivers facing food insecurity.
The allocation of CARES Act funds will yield some 50,000 daily meals for the caregivers, city officials explained in a news release. To that end, school staff will serve meals to caregivers of students through the end of June at Austin Independent School District and Del Valle Independent School District meal distribution sites, officials said.
Sponsored by Council Member Kathie Tovo and co-sponsored by Mayor Adler and Council Members Greg Casar, Natasha Harper-Madison, and Anne Kitchen, the resolution further directs the city manager to continue working with Travis County and other area Independent School Districts to explore additional partnerships for expanding food access for vulnerable families during the coronavirus pandemic, officials said.
This initiative also seeks to partner with local businesses who could prepare caregiver meals, thus filling the gap of food insecurity while supporting economic recovery efforts, officials said.
“In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, we have seen our schools step up to the challenge of addressing food insecurity in our communities,” council member Kathie Tovo said in a prepared statement. “Unfortunately, our food system is incredibly strained and has resulted in caregivers not being able to access the food they need. This action today leverages public dollars at critical community hubs to make sure that families are nourished during this time of uncertainty.”
Added Anneliese Tanner, Austin ISD Executive Director of Food Service and Warehouse Operations:
“At Austin ISD, we’re committed to expanding healthy food access and supporting our local economy. We are proud to be a part of such a supportive community that shares the same values. Partnering with the City of Austin to serve caregiver meals prepared by local restaurants helps to provide additional food security for our families during these challenging times.”
Jonathan Harris, Chief Communications Officer of Del Valle ISD, noted the current demand reflects the need for the council measure: “Evidenced by the thousands of students and families who show up for our meal deliveries, the need to provide meals to our caregivers exists,” he said. “We provide about 9,200 meals daily to our students, and with funding from the Council’s support, we will also be able to provide meals for our children’s family members.”
Others voiced support for the measure, including:
Austin Mayor Steve Adler: “We will not leave anyone behind as our city deals with COVID-19. Caregivers play such an important role and they deserve our support.”
Austin City Council member Greg Casar: “Schools play a pivotal role as a central resource hub to meet the needs for so many of my constituents. This is even more true during COVID-19. This vote will make sure all families near our schools get fed. No one should go hungry because of this pandemic.”
Harper-Madison: “This pandemic has upended the financial security of a staggering amount of Austin residents, many of whom were already only hanging on by a thread. Add to that the challenges of closed schools and online learning, and the absolute last thing any caregiver needs is to worry about their next meal. I thank council member Tovo for bringing this innovative resolution forward and I’m grateful to my fellow co-sponsors who join me in supporting it.”
Kitchen: “We have a responsibility to support our hard-hit families struggling with food access. It just makes sense to help families at the same time we are helping children from those families. Working with our school districts, we can leverage our public dollars and expertise in delivery and community connections to effectively close those gaps.”