Giving Compass' Take:

• In rural Wilkes County, North Carolina, the Wilkes County Library has long been offering free meal distribution to the public so kids can have access to healthy food and boost food security. 

• The library receives donations from local school districts, businesses, and local farmers to offer free meals to the public. Are there opportunities in your community to mobilize local companies to address food security? 

• Learn more about ensuring food security through community-driven change. 

Across America, in major cities you’ve heard of and in countless places you most likely have never considered, public librarians are working with local, state, and national partners to bring food to those who need it during the COVID-19 Pandemic.

Wait — librarians?

Yes indeed. And, when librarians distribute food, they do more than merely give it away.

They also use the library’s myriad educational and lifelong learning resources to confront the food insecurity that all too many Americans struggle with every day.

In fact, libraries have a long history of food provision, from the victory gardens of World War I and II to today’s bumper crop of community gardens at libraries across North America.

But the story runs deeper still.

In rural Wilkes County, North Carolina, in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, food insecurity is so bad that, as of 2015, only about 16 percent of children who are eligible for free summer meals actually received them.

To address this need, the Wilkes County Library started offering free summer meals.

They started out with plans to give away just 45 meals to local kids, but the program was so popular that it quickly became the largest summer food distribution site in the entire county.

The library supplemented the meals it received from a local school district with meals prepared by local businesses, who were encouraged to utilize fresh produce donated by local farmers.

In subsequent years the program expanded. The library not only distributes free meals and snacks, but also Market Bucks, provided by the county health department, which families can redeem for free food at the local farmer’s market.

So when COVID-19 hit, the Wilkes County Library was ready.

Read the full article about public libraries and food security by Noah Lenstra at Shareable.