With lead gifts from Verdant Health Commission and the Whitehorse Foundation, 10 companies and foundations have joined the Foundation for Edmonds School District to provide more than $230,000 in grants to support families in South Snohomish County who are experiencing job losses or financial need during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Contributors since March have also included the Fred Meyer Foundation, Foundry10, Safeco Insurance Fund, Whole Foods Foundation, Walmart Foundation, Costco, Building Changes, and Global Medica.
The foundation jumped into action early in the COVID-19 outbreak to ensure that local families have the resources they need to survive job losses and economic hardship brought on by the pandemic. “Working alongside the district as their primary partner, having the systems and infrastructure in place to respond to our families’ growing needs has been incredibly fulfilling,” says Foundation Executive Director Deborah Brandi.
The foundation says the success of its community-wide response to COVID-19 is due to its experience with the Whole Families, Whole Communities program, which the foundation launched in 2016 alongside the school district and eight other business and nonprofit partners. According to a foundation announcement, the goal of Whole Families, Whole Communities is to help families overcome systemic obstacles to financial stability — and ultimately to close the academic opportunity gap for low-income children and children of color in the Edmonds School District. Support available through the program includes free meals, emergency financial aid, rental assistance, and career coaching.
The goals of Whole Families, Whole Communities are even more relevant now as COVID-19 contributes to soaring unemployment rates (20% in Snohomish County at last count) and nearly twice as many children (600 compared to 400 pre-pandemic) accessing the foundation’s free daily meals.
With some of the necessary funding in place, Brandi said that she and her team are committed to delivering expanded services throughout the duration of the pandemic, extended school closures, and economic instability. Through Whole Families, Whole Communities, families can access: free meals at several community sites throughout the region; rent negotiation assistance in partnership with VOA (Volunteers of America); emergency financial aid to cover expenses that keep families housed, healthy, and safe; career training and counseling in partnership with LETI; and in August, grade-appropriate school supplies and health screenings.
The foundation typically distributes food to children when school is not in session — during summers, weekends, and holidays. With schools closed this spring to promote social distancing, the foundation opened free meal sites 12 weeks ahead of its planned summer launch date and has made no-contact delivery and pick-up an option for local families. They have distributed more than 30,000 meals this year so far.
With the exact duration of school closures unknown, the foundation said it intends to continue meeting families’ basic needs as long as possible. On July 6, previously planned summer meal sites will open at Community Life Center, Meadowdale Community Church, Spruce Park, and YWCA of Lynnwood. Any child in need of a free meal may access the service Monday through Thursday, at varying times.
For more information about Whole Families, Whole Communities, the work of the Foundation for Edmonds School District, or to support community-wide COVID-19 response, visit www.foundationesd.org.