Nonprofit providing meals to kids sees 400 percent increase in demand during pandemic

The Sheridan Story provides meals to kids, but an increase in need and limited funding could force a downsize

A man putting food in backpack
A Sheridan Story volunteer loads a backpack with food at a school site. The nonprofit provides food for children through extended breaks.
Courtesy of Sheridan Story

Schools in Minnesota are closed for the rest of the year, which leaves many kids across the state without a consistent meal every day. According to the Minnesota Department of Health, 4 in 10 students enrolled in Minnesota public schools qualify for free or reduced-price lunch.

A nonprofit, The Sheridan Story, provides food to children over weekends and extended breaks and has seen a 400 percent increase in meals needed. Without more funding, the nonprofit would have to cut meals by 92 percent.

Rob Williams, the nonprofit’s executive director, said the need was almost instant.

“Pre-COVID[-19], we provide about 25,000 meals a week. Now, we are providing over 100,000 meals a week,” he said.

At 29 different sites, they provide shelf-stable food that families can keep at home. The pandemic has increased the need for kids experiencing food insecurity, but social distancing requires some adjustments. 

“Normally we'd have up to 100 people or more packing food. Now it's down to 30, but they need to make more food because we have more need, more kids to serve,” he said.

Financially, Williams said the nonprofit hasn’t received any state or federal funding to ramp up its COVID-19 response and there has also been a shortage of food from suppliers. For Williams, the work remains necessary, especially during trying times. 

“Just being able to provide food for them to take home and consume and have available for their family and for their kids is super important,” he said.

Click the audio player above to hear more about The Sheridan Story’s response to COVID-19.

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