LOCAL LOOKOUT: Boys & Girls Club offers meals through curbside pickup

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COLUMBIA – Even though the doors are technically closed at The Boys and Girls Club of Columbia, Club services are in full swing at the curb.

The Boys and Girls Club of Columbia is offering curbside food pickups every day while Missouri’s stay-at-home order is in effect and schools are closed for the academic year.

From 4 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, meals are available for any children 5 to 18 years old at the Main Club site.

Valorie Livingston, executive director of the Boys and Girls Club of Columbia, said it was a “no brainer” to keep club services running, especially daily meals.

“No kid deserves to go home hungry,” Livingston said. “Of course, we have had to pivot drastically with how we operate the Boys and Girls Club.”

The Boys and Girls Club closed on March 17. By March 23, the curbside meal pickup was in operation. The team handed out 50 meals on its first day and now serves 300 meals on a daily basis.

Livingston said that the Club requested funding in alliance to the Summer Food Service Program, a program that is providing funding to child nutrition programs in response to the COVID-19 outbreak and is administered by the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services. She said the Club got the grant and also partnered with Bleu Events, a Columbia food vendor, to make the curbside pickup possible.

The state grant only covers part of the meal costs, Livingston said, as each meal costs $2 more than the state grant is reimbursing.

But that's where Bleu Events stepped in.

“The second I talked to Valorie, and she mentioned that is what they wanted to do, I knew we would figure it out and make it happen,” Bleu Events’ Chief Operating Officer Nathan Todd said. 

Each meal includes an entrée, fruit, vegetable and milk. An additional snack and drink are also provided at the curbside pickup, along with an activity of the day, which ranges from bubbles to Easter egg decorating kits.

The meals are made by a Bleu Events chefs in the kitchen at the Boys and Girls Club of Columbia Main Site. Livingston said meals are different every day but hold the same nutritional value.

“We’re very careful that we’re providing meals that we know kids love to eat, but that also are meeting every nutritional expectation,” Livingston said.

The Club also opened its curbside food pickup to all kids in Columbia, not just members of the Club.

“A lot of kids depended on getting that breakfast or getting that lunch at school,” Livingston said. “We’re here. Our mission is to serve kids and support families and making sure that all kids in our community between the ages of five and 18 have access to healthy food is part of our mission.”

For safety, all personnel handling food at the Club wear masks and gloves. Each packaged meal also includes a list of ingredients used for caution with allergies.   

Livingston said the gratitude of the families picking up food makes the hard work worth it.

“It has been very fulfilling to see the gratitude from the families and the excitement and that that’s probably the highlight of their day that day because of the un-normal routines that we’re all living in right now,” Livingston said.

The Boys and Girls Clubs of Columbia and Bleu Events will continue the curbside food pickup as long as there is a need. 

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