Discover how No Kid Hungry, a nonprofit under Share Our Strength, pivoted quickly during recent school closures to feed hungry children across the country.
For many families, school closures due to the onset of COVID-19 meant a swift transition to online learning, and home environments transformed to accommodate school, work, play, and meal times all under the same roof. For other families, however, the closure of schools meant severing a crucial lifeline for their children.
Before the pandemic, hundreds of thousands of families across America were relying on programs supported by No Kid Hungry, a nonprofit organization under the Share our Strength umbrella, to connect their children with nutritious meals. This provision of breakfast, lunch, and afternoon snacks couldn't stop during the pandemic, but No Kid Hungry had to pivot quickly — helping schools work through alternatives to their school-based distribution model, and updating their website to direct families to essential food and services.
Now, as some schools are reopening and others are continuing a remote-learning model, No Kid Hungry is continuing to tweak their messaging and digital strategy according to what's needed. "We're part of a group that's helping to advise major school districts and state and local government what going back to school looks like — and it's definitely not normal," says Jason Wilson, the Managing Director of Brand and Marketing at Share Our Strength who leads the No Kid Hungry campaign.
"During the school year, the school food programs are all centered around the classroom and cafeterias. Traditionally, in the summer, that changes to school parking lots, community centers, and local community-based organizations like the YMCA. All those sites had to shift this summer; locations changed, safety precautions were implemented, and people turned online to find where and how to access food for their kids."
Pivoting to a Digital Solution
Pantheon's own data shows unprecedented traffic spikes across multiple industries at the onset of COVID-19, and nonprofit organizations were among those most heavily affected. To meet this demand, No Kid Hungry had to move fast.
At the same time they were pivoting strategies to fund and support novel community solutions — delivering food to homes via school buses, keeping food refrigerated at outdoor access points, ensuring PPE protection for staff — their digital team was working quickly to improve website functionality, too. This came as more and more people were turning to programs supported by No Kid Hungry due to rising unemployment and financial uncertainty.
"When the Coronavirus pandemic hit, the number of kids struggling with hunger went from 1 in 7 kids to 1 in 4 kids," Wilson says. "So our mission did not change, but we had to pivot strategies very quickly. We still wanted to make sure that we were feeding hungry kids, but the way in which we went about that had to change overnight. The focus of my team shifted to connecting those families to the resources they need, in ways we'd never had to consider before."
Affording Access in New Ways
Using Pantheon's free website offering for mission-critical organizations, the team at No Kid Hungry built an interactive map to help families find food and connect them with relevant social services. In addition, No Kid Hungry immediately began advising local authorities on best practices for food service and measures for keeping people safe. This work continues today, as states across America evaluate the risks and benefits of returning to school.
"The Free Meals Finder map shows families every food distribution site in their community, which in some cases is between 30 and 40 sites within a five-mile radius. The map also shows families where and how to sign up for and access programs like the federal government's Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and financial aid and resources," Wilson says.
"Since March, more than 200,000 families have used the Free Meals Finder map to find food assistance near them. The No Kid Hungry campaign has granted over 27 million dollars in all 50 states and supported over 1,100 community partners and organizations who are feeding kids in their communities."
This capacity to build something so interactive and helpful, while pivoting strategies rapidly, epitomizes the WebOps approach to website management. Using our WebOps Platform, the team at No Kid Hungry could iterate on the most high-impact digital assets, and focus their team on creating the most effective user experience possible. They did this by collaborating in real time, automating routine tasks, and trusting Pantheon's platform to keep their website performant and stable — even during traffic spikes. It's this flexibility and security that makes WebOps an effective framework for making a difference and creating an impact on the open web.
“The No Kid Hungry campaign was founded about 10 years ago, and it's goal is ambitious — it's to end child hunger in America," Wilson says. "That involves connecting kids to three nutritious meals a day. We're trying to make sure that kids have the food they need to really thrive and reach their potential."
Interested in hearing more from the folks at Share Our Strength and how they pivoted to meet the moment during the pandemic? Check out their recorded session from our latest WebOps Summit.
Hero image credit: No Kid Hungry Facebook.
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Topics: Growth & Scale, Speed & Performance, WebOps