Milwaukee Center for Independence

Like many area nonprofits, the Milwaukee Center for Independence had to make quick adjustments to its core programs when the public health crisis hit while still trying to fulfill its mission of advancing total health for people of all abilities 

Its Birth to Three, supported employment and other programs transitioned to online programming. Others, like adult day services, suspended programming. Its food service operation, however, shifted production to meet the emergency needs of children in the community. 

Prior to the emergence of COVID-19, MCFI’s food service program produced and distributed more than 23,000 meals dailyto about 90 schools and early childhood education centers in Milwaukee. When schools closed, its work changed. MCFI partnered with the Hunger Task Force and the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee to provide meals to children in Milwaukee County during the pandemic. It provides fresh food at about 20 emergency meal sites to meet the hunger needs of children no longer receiving meals in school. As of mid-May, it was producing about 38,000 meals each week.  

Not only did the nonprofit provide additional meals, it faced additional challenges in doing so. State and federal regulations required extensive countermeasures to ensure safe individual packaging and handling of food. That, in turn, required additional packaging costs. While the breakfast that MCFI prepares is not a hot meal and is served in a bag, fresh lunch and dinners are packaged in special “Oliver” trays, which enable parents and caregivers to safely reheat meals in a microwave or oven, if needed.   

A $21,000 grant from the MKE Responds Fund helped MCFI bridge the financial costs for the significantly increased amount of labor required to package and deliver meals. 

“Our families and children struggled before this crisis and these overwhelming times require an overwhelming partnership,” said Heidi Chada, MCFI’s vice president of nutrition and employment services. “Because of the generous MKE Responds Fund donation and partnership with the Greater Milwaukee Foundation, MCFI is able to help nourish our community.”

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