In March of this year, a week prior to Governor Walz issuing Minnesota’s original stay-at- home order, Community Action Partnership of Ramsey & Washington Counties closed its facilities to ensure the health and safety of its participants, volunteers, and employees in the wake of the emerging COVID-19 pandemic. Nonetheless, Community Action immediately adopted innovative strategies, virtual tools, and other methods that enabled us to continue to serve and meet the critical needs of our clientele.
As part of our Head Start and Early Head Start programs—which collectively serve children from prenatal to age 5—these efforts have included arranging emergency childcare, interactive educational activities, and developmental services while communicating with hundreds of children and their families through social media, text message, email, and video software platforms such as Zoom and Google Hangouts. And, beginning that same time in March, in order to meet the nutritional needs of our Head Start children, Community Action set up food distribution sites at three of its Head Start Centers in St. Paul.
“The need has been overwhelming,” notes Angela Prokop, Nutrition Coordinator with Community Action Head Start/Early Head Start, “We are seeing anywhere between 275 to 350 of our families per week and expect this to increase significantly as the weather continues to warm up. We’ve also expanded this initiative to include the distribution of educational materials, essential household items, and other basic needs.” In addition, Community Action has shared more than one hundred extra meals with Wilder Child Development Center, one of our long-time agency partners.
Community Action Head Start/Early Head Start is currently collaborating with the North Saint Paul Food Shelf to help bridge any nutritional gaps in these households. We are also in the process of partnering with The Food Group, a Twin Cities-based nonprofit to provide meal boxes stocked with four weeks of food that take into account the cultural and dietary needs of diverse Head Start and Early Head Start families.
“As both a Head Start parent myself and President of the Head Start Policy Council, I can say that this service has been a blessing,” says Jessika Thomas, “Without it, hundreds of families would be struggling to put food on the table each day.”
The Community Action Head Start/Early Head Start food distribution centers currently operate every Tuesday from 11:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at University HS Center, Battle Creek HS Center, and McDonough HS Center, providing a total more than 3,000 meals per week.
If you are a Head Start or Early Head Start family and would like to participate in this community initiative, please contact your child’s teacher, Family Advocate, Home Visitor, or Center Education Coordinator to register. You can also text Ms. Molly at 651-285-1929. Please share your child(ren)’s name, birthdate and the center they attend. To view an informational Facebook video about our food distribution efforts in English, Spanish, Somali, Hmong, or Karen, please visit the following link.
Each Monday, the Community Action Blog “Working Together,” will feature highlights of the previous week’s food distribution event. And, for anyone who is not a Head Start/Early Head Start family, but still in need of food assistance, freefood.org has compiled a comprehensive online list of available food resources in the City of St. Paul.
*Community Action Partnership of Ramsey & Washington Counties is an equal opportunity employer and provider.