Northern Iowa Community Action Organization Empowers People With CACFP

Northern Iowa Community Action Leverages Child and Adult Care Food Program During Pandemic

ROUND ROCK, TX, USA, October 11, 2022 / — The mission of North Iowa Community Action Organization is to provide quality services that enable those in need to achieve and maintain economic stability through collaborative efforts. Participation in the food program for children and adults supports this mission by promoting access to good nutrition for participants. This is no small task considering that the organization provides services to nine northern Iowa counties.

All NICAO staff are involved in the execution of the CACFP. From cooks, who shop, prepare and serve meals, to teachers and associate teachers who eat with students and teach them about family meals and proper nutrition, and to administrative staff who train and support, CACFP is an integral part of operations at NICAO. But it’s not just the staff. They also rely on collaborative relationships with local schools, businesses and individuals in the communities they serve.

When the pandemic hit, NICAO continued to support the nutritional needs of participants. Classrooms were closed in early March 2020, but staff still had to ensure students were not only educated but provided with nutritious food. NICAO embarked on a mission to deliver food to families of participants in the nine northern Iowa counties they serve. Staff packed and delivered boxes of food during the months of April, May and June 2020.

In particular, they leveraged relationships with existing vendors, but also established new relationships with commercial food producers for donations and wholesale relationships to meet the new challenges of weekly packaged meals as well as take-out options.

Once classrooms reopened, NICAO offered families the option to attend virtually; however, virtual attendees would still need to receive meals. They were able to achieve this by working with outlying schools in several counties to provide families in those districts the opportunity to eat breakfast and lunch each day; in some cases, they took meals for the week. If a family was unable to pick up meals, NICAO would deliver meals to them. Truly, the staff were committed to making sure every child was nurtured whether they attended virtually or in person.

In fact, they continue to offer and deliver meals to students who are quarantined due to COVID. But it does not stop there. This new on-the-go lunch bag program has gone beyond the pandemic and expanded into ordinary operations. Last year, NICAO began sending bags of food home with students during vacations. Although funding for these meals did not come from CACFP, NICAO remains committed to child nutrition and has chosen to follow the standards set by CACFP.

During the height of the pandemic, and even in the days following its disappearance from the headlines, the North Iowa Community Action Organization remained true to its mission of using collaborative efforts to support its participants. From activating partnerships with suppliers to engaging all staff, everyone has helped feed the children.

Since 1986, CNA served as a national platform for the child and adult food program community. NCA’s mission is to bring members information on legislative, regulatory, and advocacy issues, share resources among the broader CACFP community, and provide an engaging and informative annual conference that offers the greatest opportunities CACFP networking and training centers across the country. The CACFP is an indicator of quality of care. When children and adults are cared for by providers who participate in CACFP, they receive the best nutrition available.

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Aubrey L. Morgan