When the announcement came in early 2020 that Thurston and Lewis County Schools would be online only due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the staff of Thurston County Washington State University Extension snapped into action to meet the needs of their community.
“We scrambled knowing that half our population is food insecure,” said Melissa Davis, SNAP-Ed Program Coordinator for WSU Extension in Thurston and Lewis County.
SNAP-Ed is a collaborative effort between the USDA Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), USDA- Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service (CSREES), Washington State University, Thurston County, and local partners throughout the community.
Rather than bagging up random pantry foods to send home to families, Davis used her prior experience as a chef to design meal kits. She wanted to ensure that all the ingredients worked together, and families could make a healthy meal.
The kits were provided to families each week through the end of the last school year, and monthly over the summer months. Meal kits are still being provided to families every other week, due to the program running short on funding.
“Our families are still struggling,” Davis said.
Children from throughout Thurston and Lewis County usually learn about gardening and assist in planting at their school gardens in the spring.
“Since we couldn’t get the students together due to the pandemic, we sent home seed starter kits,” Davis said.
Throughout the year, Thurston County WSU Extension built more than 100 seed-starting kits, including bean kits for first graders, pumpkin kits for second graders, and cucumber kits for third graders.
Davis said that because she and her team could no longer do their usual rigid structure of activities in the classroom, they were forced to get creative, and find new ways to stay connected to the community.
“I’ve noticed that once you have an idea, the greater community is really excited to help. Once you have the vision, people are ready to support, and that’s really encouraging,” she said.
To learn how to support this project, contact Melissa at Thurston County Extension by phone at (360) 867–2172, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.