WASHINGTON - The National League of Cities (NLC) is launching the second phase of the Cities Combating Hunger through Afterschool and Summer Meal Programs (CHAMP) project, a national initiative to reduce childhood hunger by expanding participation in federally-subsidized afterschool and summer meals programs. Funded by the Walmart Foundation and conducted in partnership with the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC), CHAMP will provide city officials with funding, technical assistance and training opportunities to increase participation in year-round out-of-school programs that serve healthy meals.
The CHAMP project fills a critical void for cities whose low-income children lack access to nutritious meals during non-school hours. FRAC estimates that nearly 20 million children received free or reduced-price school lunches and 10.5 million children received free or reduced-price school breakfasts during the 2011-12 school year. For many of these students, the end of the school day or school year also means reduced access to healthy meals. The number of children who participate in summer nutrition programs is only about 15 percent of the number who rely on subsidized school lunches, partially because of lack of awareness and failure to maximize available funding.
The new phase of CHAMP will help cities not only tap federal funding for afterschool and summer meals, but also develop streamlined systems that ensure all children have uninterrupted, year-round access to nutritious food.
"Food insecurity can have devastating effects on children and communities, and as city leaders we have a responsibility to do everything we can to end hunger and food insecurity in our cities and towns-especially for our children," said NLC President Marie Lopez Rogers, mayor of Avondale, AZ. "We cannot let the health of our communities decline because kids are suffering from hunger. The CHAMP initiative will help cities across the country provide sustainable access to nutritious meals for children."
"Like the NLC, we are committed to ensuring that children in the communities we serve have access to nutritious foods even when school is out," said Julie Gehrki, senior director of the Walmart Foundation. "By providing support for programs such as CHAMP, we increase participation and set children up for a better future through developing healthy eating habits."
The CHAMP initiative will engage up to 20 cities, up to 15 of which will have the opportunity to receive ongoing assistance and regranted funding. NLC will also offer 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 strengthen partnerships between these organizations and project cities, thereby reaching more children as they work to reduce childhood hunger.
The National League of Cities is dedicated to helping city leaders build better communities. NLC is a resource and advocate for 19,000 cities, towns and villages, representing more than 218 million Americans. The Institute for Youth, Education, and Families, a special entity within the National League of Cities, helps municipal leaders take action on behalf of the children, youth, and families in their communities.