In a matter of days, COVID-19 closed school doors across the country, denying thousands of children access to meal services, internet, books, and more. To meet the urgent needs of those who rely on school for food and educational resources, Pizza Hut announced the Read & Feed Program, where they will donate 250,000 Personal Pan Pizzas and make $500,000 in grants to educators through its nonprofit partner, First Book.
With these grants from Pizza Hut, First Book and First Book-eligible BOOK IT! educators will be able to order books or other educational resources and distribute to students where essential services are received (including emergency feeding sites, approved grab-and-go food programs at schools, public housing authorities, or other essential social service sites).
Additionally, starting around April 22, every order from First Book (up to 10,000) will arrive to educators with 25 Pizza Hut Personal Pan Pizza certificates. Pizza Hut is providing these certificates, so that educators can distribute them to their students. First Book educators interested in applying for a grant from Pizza Hut to support their students can visit FirstBook.org for more information.
With little clarity on when students will return to school, these essential efforts are needed now more than ever. First Book recently surveyed its educator network and found that more than two-thirds indicated a high need for books to supplement distance learning, keep kids engaged, and prevent them from falling behind while out of the classroom.
Furthermore, a 2019 report from the Federal Communications Commission showed that 21 million Americans did not have access to at-home broadband. As reliance on at-home learning increases amidst continued school-closures, students who lack access to the internet or books in their homes are unable to participate, putting them at a significant disadvantage that will persist after the COVID-19 crisis has resolved.
For some, having access to books simply adds a much-needed sense of comfort. One teacher surveyed says, “I am the social worker for students who are identified as homeless. A donation of books would help slow down the impending instructional lag that will come with this school shutdown. Students will feel a sense of family with the school, and a sense of pride with each book they open.”
“For millions of students, school is one of the only places to receive reliable meals and access to books. By equipping the amazing educators serving these students with grants and food to distribute, we’re doubling down on our 35-year commitment to supporting childhood literacy and helping children receive meals they need during this crisis,” says George Felix, Chief Marketing Officer, Pizza Hut. “Help us spread the word by letting educators in your own circles know of these available grants at FirstBook.org, so we can continue to help as many students as possible.”
“This crisis exacerbates the inequities that already exist. Children in affluent schools can stay at home and continue their schoolwork via online curriculum and home libraries — but children from low-income families rely on school for meals – and they don’t have access to the internet or books in their homes. They need our help now,” says Kyle Zimmer, president, CEO and Co-founder of First Book. “We are so grateful to Pizza Hut for stepping up and working with us to make a difference for the kids who need us most right now. The Read & Feed Program will help keep so many children in need from falling behind at this unprecedented time. This is what corporate leadership looks like.”
The Read & Feed Program is the latest literacy-based initiative from Pizza Hut, which has built a legacy of nurturing a love of reading through its BOOK IT! Program. Since 1984, the BOOK IT! Program has been dedicated to encouraging reading in schools nationwide. BOOK IT! is the largest and longest-running corporate supported reading program and has inspired 1-in-5 Americans along the way. In 2016, Pizza Hut expanded its commitment to literacy when it launched Pizza Hut: The Literacy Project, a global commitment to impact 100 million lives by enabling access to books and educational resources, empowering teachers and inspiring readers. To achieve this, Pizza Hut raises money on behalf of its nonprofit partner First Book, who provides grants to teachers to purchase books and educational resources for their students and classrooms.
To learn more about how Pizza Hut supports childhood literacy – and how you can get involved – visit PizzaHut.com/TheLiteracyProject and FirstBook.org.