By Michael Karpman
With a $1.5 million grant from The Walmart Foundation and in partnership with the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC), NLC's Institute for Youth, Education and Families has launched the second phase of a national initiative to reduce childhood hunger by expanding participation in federally-subsidized afterschool and summer meals programs.
The next round of the Cities Combating Hunger through Afterschool and Summer Meal Programs initiative will begin with two regional leadership academies held in late May and early June, each of which will be open to 10 city teams. These two-day trainings will provide three-person teams of city officials and other key stakeholders with information about federal funding for afterschool and summer meals; strategies for linking these programs to facilitate year-round provision of out-of-school meals; ideas for increasing children's participation; and additional advice and best practices shared by national experts. Travel costs for city teams will be covered by project funds. The request for proposals to participate in one of these leadership academies is available here. Applications are due no later than March 25, 2013.
Following the leadership academies, up to 15 participating cities will have the opportunity to receive between $30,000 and $60,000 in regranted funding and in-depth technical assistance and training to develop and improve afterschool and summer meal programs over a one-year period. This cohort will include four to six cities that do not yet have either program in place and seven to nine cities that have already established summer meal programs. The former group will receive assistance in developing new meal programs and increasing participation. The latter group will receive support to build a coordinated system of year-round efforts to feed low-income children.
An informational webinar for leadership academy applicants will be held Friday, March 8, at 1:00 p.m. Eastern Time. Click here to register.
NLC will also provide regranted funding to build the capacity of five anti-hunger organizations that are part of FRAC's national network and that operate in states where the project cities are located. The grants will be used to help strengthen partnerships between these organizations and selected cities to increase participation in afterschool and summer meal programs and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
Closing Nutrition Gaps When School Is Out
Hunger and food insecurity can have devastating long-term effects on children and the communities in which they live. Students suffering from hunger are more likely to struggle in school and are at greater risk of being in poor health.
Federal funding helps cities and schools throughout the country close nutrition gaps for millions of children from low-income families. According to FRAC, nearly 20 million children received free or reduced-price school lunches and more than 10.5 million children received free or reduced-price school breakfasts during the 2011-12 school year. However, for many of these students, the end of the school day or school year also means reduced access to healthy meals and a more difficult struggle against hunger. The number of children who participate in summer nutrition programs is only about 15 percent of the number who rely on subsidized school lunches.
Many afterschool and summer program providers - whether run by city recreation departments, schools, or nonprofit organizations - offer healthy meals to participants. These meals attract children and youth to high-quality out-of-school learning opportunities and reassure working parents that their children have consistent access to nutritious meals. Recently expanded federal funding streams reimburse programs that serve meals to children in low-income neighborhoods, freeing up limited local resources to pay for programming instead of food. These funding sources include the Afterschool Meal Program and the Summer Food Service Program.
As demonstrated by the 11 sites that participated in the first phase of the Cities Combating Hunger through Afterschool Meal Programs (CHAMP) initiative throughout 2012, cities can partner with other out-of-school time program providers to maximize utilization of federal funding for afterschool and summer meals. For instance, cities can provide the administrative capacity needed to sponsor the Afterschool Meal Program for multiple afterschool sites and work with schools and nonprofits to increase meal program participation.
In Omaha, Neb., 32 Omaha Public Schools sites began accessing Afterschool Meal Program funding during the CHAMP project, serving more than 137,000 meals to 3,600 students over the last six months.
The City of Las Vegas, Nev., recently announced an expanded partnership with the Clark County School District and Three Square Food Bank to provide meals at 44 of the city's Safekey sites that offer before-school and afterschool programs.
"Inadequate food nutrition has been shown to have a debilitating effect on a child's cognitive and even physical functions, often leading to the child's underperformance in school and resulting in lower academic achievement on the part of the undernourished child," said Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn G. Goodman. "Programs such as these are a critical tool to help fight hunger and increase nutrition for our young people."
NLC's new project will help cities not only tap open-ended, needs-based federal funding for afterschool and summer meals, but also develop streamlined systems that ensure all children have uninterrupted, year-round access to nutritious meals.
How to Apply for the Leadership Academies
Click here to download the application to participate in one of the regional leadership academies. For more information, contact Denise Belser at (202) 626-3028 or firstname.lastname@example.org or Imani Hope at (202) 626-3180 or email@example.com. Click here to register for the informational webinar on March 8 at 1:00 p.m. Eastern.