By Imani Hope
Municipal officials and staff from 11 cities gathered in Jacksonville, FL, recently to share lessons learned from their efforts to reduce childhood hunger through expanded afterschool meal programs. NLC's Institute for Youth, Education and Families and the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) hosted the two-day, peer-to-peer convening as part of the Cities Combating Hunger through Afterschool Meal Programs (CHAMP) initiative.
Through a one-year grant from the Walmart Foundation, NLC and FRAC provided city leaders, afterschool providers and anti-hunger organizations with technical assistance and training throughout 2012 as they worked to increase participation in the federal Afterschool Meal Program. This recently expanded federal program reimburses afterschool providers that serve nutritious meals to children and youth in disadvantaged neighborhoods.
The Jacksonville meeting marks the third time cities participating in the CHAMP initiative have had the opportunity to convene in person and receive hands-on, targeted assistance from national and local afterschool and nutrition experts. In May, city teams from 21 communities participated in two leadership academies hosted by NLC and FRAC to learn how to take advantage of the new federal funding opportunity. Of those 21 cities, 11 were selected to receive pass-through grants from NLC to advance the development of their afterschool meals initiatives. The 11 cities selected include Boise, ID; Bridgeport, CT.; Charlottesville, VA.; Chicago, IL.; Denver, CO; Las Vegas, NV; Nashville, TN; Northfield, MN; Omaha, NE; Orlando, FL; and Tampa, FL. These cities are at various stages of implementation of the afterschool meals program, and the final project convening in Jacksonville gave them a chance to share promising practices, challenges and successes with other members of their project cohort.
In addition to assisting local governments in increasing access to afterschool meals, six state-based anti-hunger organizations (in Nebraska, Idaho, Connecticut, Colorado, Tennessee, and Florida) received funding to participate in the technical assistance project and support local advocacy and outreach efforts. These groups were selected based on their ability to build partnerships with afterschool meal providers and cities, and help them accomplish broader project outcomes.
Jacksonville's Afterschool Meal Program in Action
Meeting participants had an opportunity to hear from Jill Dame, the interim director of the Jacksonville Children's Commission, about how the City of Jacksonville launched and sustained its afterschool meals program. A visit to the Jacksonville Police Athletic League (PAL) facility provided opportunities for further discussion as speakers from Mayor Alvin Brown's office, the Jacksonville Children's Commission and the PAL answered questions and engaged in dialogue with the city teams.
Following presentations from city and site representatives, the meeting attendees were able to see afterschool meals being served to children visiting the PAL site following dismissal from school. Students in kindergarten through fifth grade chatted at their tables with the visiting group about how much they liked and appreciated the meals they are fed each day. Parents were also present to assist in serving the suppers, as is routine at the PAL site. One parent noted that as a full-time nursing student, she is thankful that her two children have an opportunity to get a balanced dinner while she takes classes in the evenings.
Details: To learn more about the CHAMP initiative, contact Imani Hope at (202) 626-3180 or firstname.lastname@example.org.