More than 3,700 meals were served to kids during the first week of the Loveland Schools shutdown in response to COVID-19
By: Chuck Gibson
LOVELAND, OH – NEST Community Learning Center transitioned from homework tutors to food servers for the low income Loveland School kids during the COVID-19 response Loveland Schools shutdown
NEST will continue mobile feeding for children at locations throughout Loveland (Photo Chuck Gibson)
The mission for NEST is Nutrition, Education, Safety and Transformation to stop the cycle of generational poverty in suburban communities like Loveland. Founder and Executive Director Evangeline (Van) DeVol was quick to join in partnership with Loveland Schools to plan for mobile feeding of the children in need while schools are closed. Providing nutrition is a staple of the unique mobile education program – especially during summer when kids are naturally out of school and do not have access to school lunch programs. Serving the kids while schools are closed due to COVID-19 is not unlike the NEST summer program, at the same time, serving 3,735 meals in one week is extraordinary.
“It was amazing,” said DeVol. “I have never seen a community step-up like we did. We had so many volunteers, we were sending them home.”
Don’t take that the wrong way. NEST continues to welcome even more volunteers with expectations they may more than double the meals served this week. DeVol explained part of the reason the overflow of volunteers were sent home was being mindful of social distancing requirements and how close everyone could work together. They were packing “box lunches” with prepackaged foods to take out to set locations around Loveland where the children in need could safely receive a meal. NEST safely delivered 3,735 meals during the first week.
“It was beyond awesome,” DeVol said. “People showed up and said, I heard you were doing this, can I help?”
NEST planned to be at nine specific locations each day, but quickly adjusted to the needs of the community adding two additional locations.
The response to COVID-19 is nothing if not fluid. That held true for the NEST response during the first week as well. Two of the planned mobile meal pick-up locations did not have safe walkways for the children (McCoy Park and Epiphany United Methodist Church Parking Lot) and were dropped. NEST will continue to serve children at: Westover Village, Chapelwood Apts, MacArthur Park Apts 12:30-1:30 p.m., Branches Church, Branch Hill Coffee Company, New Hope Baptist Church, Lever Park-1:30-2:30 p.m. and Waterford Place Apts, and Downtown Loveland (Parking lot between Loveland Canoe & Kayak and Eads Loveland Hardware) 2:30-3:30 p.m. Monday thru Thursday.
NEST vehicles will be mobilized to serve meals throughout the community (Photo Chuck Gibson)
The health and safety of the children is priority one. For those reasons of safety, children should only accept food at those mobile sites from volunteers wearing the NEST t-shirt and with vehicles adorned with the NEST logo. For those same reasons of health and safety, donations must be sorted, stored and packed properly for delivery. That is where more volunteers come in.
“We did send home extra meals on Thursday,” said DeVol.
They are serving the premade breakfast and lunch meals as well as putting together some shelf stable items to send home with the kids for dinner. Information on the NEST website indicates it requires $1,200 a day to serve Loveland’s low income kids while the schools are closed. You can help by donating needed prepackaged non-perishable food items, or by making a financial donation. The support of the community has been extraordinary, but the need is equally extraordinary as NEST continues to identify more at risk youth during the COVID-19 response.
“We’ve had a lot of families that were sick or couldn’t get to one of the 10 drop-off locations to get meals to their kids,” DeVol said. “We had runners (drivers) actually take it to their door.”
LIFE Food Pantry will continue to feed the Loveland schoolchildren in need (Provided)
DeVol and the NEST team is not doing this alone. Loveland low income families identified and registered with L.I.F.E. Food Pantry are receiving aid with drive-thru pickup of food at their Prince of Peace church location in Loveland. The entire organization of the partnership effort began with coordination by Loveland School administration focusing on the health and well-being of students beyond learning while schools are closed – especially the students most at risk. Guiding the feeding efforts from the school is Kris Tracy, Loveland School’s food service manager.
“Kris Tracy, who is in charge of all the food, she’s the food manager for the whole Loveland City School District; she has been the most amazing woman to work with ever,” said DeVol. “She is amazing, patient, and thorough. We are under her guidance while working up at the high school, but we are also working collaboratively. It was an amazing team. They worked like clockwork.”
Tracy told DeVol, based on how they worked the first week, they could easily double that for the next week. NEST will continue to adjust and seek the most efficient and timely response methods to meet the needs of the children most at risk in the Loveland community while schools are closed.
Public Service Promotion
DeVol has been most surprised (pleasantly) at how many people are reaching out to help feed the kids.
“They always refer to them as ‘our’ kids,” she said. “It’s not your kids, the kids, it is ‘our’ kids.”
Keeping kids safe is a number 1 priority during the COVID-19 response. NEST volunteers will be identifiable by the NEST shirt they’ll be wearing. (Photo Chuck Gibson)
The response of the community has been heartwarming for sure. At the same time, the collaborative effort of NEST, L.I.F.E. Food Pantry, the Care Center and Loveland Schools has not been without challenges. Yes, people want to help, but they may unwittingly be hindering the process in trying to fill their own pantry.
“The biggest challenge for us right now is people hoarding,” DeVol said.
One family who has limited transportation options needed diapers and formula. Her window of opportunity to get to the store to purchase it closed fast when she arrived at the store only to find empty shelves.
“She walked to the store to buy the diapers and formula for her new baby,” explained DeVol. “The shelf was empty. She had no car.”
DeVol can share other similar stories, but that one highlighted the impact of hoarding and the challenge it presents. Hoarding by individuals actually creates more need for organizations like NEST and the Food Pantry when low income families cannot get to the foods they need, even when they would be able to purchase it. Despite that challenge DeVol and the whole NEST team continues to be amazed by the goodness of community of Loveland.
There is more to come in the weeks ahead. DeVol knows it is not just the children, it’s the elderly and those who may be physically challenged with special needs now too. She expects to make an announcement early this week on a new collaborative effort to serve other needs around the community. Volunteers and donations will continue to be critical for keeping Loveland and communities’ safe and healthy during the COVID-19 response.
Click here to Volunteer
Click here to Donate
Click here to visit NEST online for information on Food Donation Drop-off, or Financial Donation options
Click here to visit LIFE Food Pantry online.