“We strive to give children the best care possible – we like to do everything right, that’s how we think over here,” says Tzirel Nussbaum, Peekaboo’s director, about their mission.
When the pandemic began, Peekaboo had to close its facility and transition into a virtual learning environment that consisted of daily phone conferences and intensive activity packages that children could do with their families.
As a CACFP provider, Peekaboo serves breakfast, a hot lunch, and snacks to each of the children, which is a highlight at Peekaboo. However, due to the pandemic, this program looked different.
Near the end of April, Peekaboo began a grab-and-go food program for the children enrolled in their facility. Used to serving meals in their facility, this grab-and-go program was a new and challenging experience for Peekaboo.
“It was a ton, I mean a ton of work. [However] the feedback I received from the families made all the work worth it,” Nussbaum says.
In addition to increased workload, the grab-and-go program was much more costly because of individualized packaging to ensure meals are temperature safe.
The NJCNF COVID-19 Emergency Meal Grant allowed Peekaboo to cover additional costs and to continue being there for Lakewood families. They were able to increase the number of grab-and-go meals given out. Specifically, they used the grant for packaging materials and food supplies.
In mid-June 2020, Peekaboo reopened its doors with limited capacity under New Jersey’s Executive Order. Their grab-and-go program took a pause as they began serving meals in their facility again. However, meals had to be served in individual portions with specific COVID-19 safety measures, which also increased costs. Nonetheless, Peekaboo has been taking every necessary safety precaution to ensure that their facility can continue nurturing children in a safe environment. Currently, they serve over 370 families.
Nussbaum’s favorite part of the CACFP program is introducing healthy foods and proper eating habits: “Giving nutritious food [to children] when they are young — it is the most amazing gift you can give a child.”
ABOUT NJ CHILD NUTRITION FUND (NJCNF)
NJCNF aims to increase the number of low-income children receiving meals through the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) and the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP). Additionally, NJCNF seeks to facilitate the use of fresh, local and ethnically appropriate food whenever possible.
In the summer of 2020, Reinvestment Fund used NJCNF resources to offer emergency meal grants to meet the immediate capital and operational needs of organizations as they worked to respond to the evolving pandemic-related crisis.
The New Jersey Child Nutrition Fund initiative is supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.