Drive-Through Distributions, Community Partnerships Help Mitigate Food Insecurity

Kristina Bedikian is the Nutrition Coordinator for Acelero Learning Early/Head Start Clark County, where she has worked for 10 years. Nutrition services are a critical piece of Head Start’s comprehensive model of support. In her role, Kristina creates the breakfast, lunch, and snack menus for children, works with children with food allergies and special diets, overweight and underweight children, and now, she runs the food distribution program for Acelero families, staff, and the entire community.

When COVID-19 hit back in March 2020, Kristina knew that pausing in-person services meant that 1,447 children would no longer be able to come to school and count on a stable, nutritious meal, or even escape a tough situation at home. Kristina is dedicated to giving back and supporting children and families in any way she can. Without missing a beat, she began collecting diapers, wipes, formula, and G-tube formula. She befriended the managers at her local Sams Club to work around the limited purchase rules in place and stored cases of supplies in her garage to distribute to families.

As Acelero’s Nutrition Coordinator in a situation where food insecurity was a primary concern, Kristina worked quickly and innovatively to get food to families. Kristina already had a partnership with Three Square Food Bank, with whom she’s worked to host farmers’ markets for the past three years. She turned to them and learned about the drive-through food distributions they were hosting across Las Vegas and Henderson, Nevada. Kristina began volunteering with them Tuesday through Friday to hand out food to the community and shared the distribution site locations with Acelero staff and families in a weekly email.

By June, Kristina was able to set up drive-through food distributions at three of Acelero’s centers each week, which continue to provide food to the community today. Kristina was the leader in establishing these sites, but her infectious energy, close attention to health and safety guidance, and effective communication brought many Acelero staff on board to help run the sites.

In her own words:

“What makes me a 2020 BOLD Leader is my heart, my passion, and my dedication to help those in need… Food insecurity is at an all-time high across the nation. Nutrition is key in education, learning, and growing developmentally for our children. I will continue to host drive-through food distributions and work with our food service team to provide meals for the household along with meals for the children. By doing this, hopefully, it will help ease some stress off the families to focus on other issues they may be struggling with. I will continue to gain more community partners and bring up-to-date resources to give to our Acelero staff and families to help them through this pandemic and uncertainty in 2021.”

Malkia Payton-Jackson

Malkia Payton-Jackson is NHSA’s first-ever director of alumni engagement. Back in Cambridge, Head Start is where she made her first best friend — and now, she’s inviting Head Start alumni to connect with one another, share their unique stories, and help keep Head Start strong for generations to come.

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