By Dawn Schluckebier
NLC's Institute for Youth, Education and Families has selected 15 cities for the second phase of an initiative to combat childhood hunger through federally-subsidized afterschool and summer meal programs.
Over the next year, each city will receive between $40,000 and $60,000 in regranted funding and technical assistance through NLC's Cities Combating Hunger through Afterschool and Summer Meal Programs (CHAMPS) initiative, which is supported by The Walmart Foundation and conducted in partnership with the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC). The selected cities are:
Through this project, NLC will assist cities in better leveraging available federal funding to expand participation in the Afterschool Meal Program and Summer Food Service Program. These U.S. Department of Agriculture programs reimburse participating local afterschool providers - including city departments, school districts and nonprofit organizations - that serve meals to children from low-income families.
The new project builds on the success of an initiative sponsored by NLC in 2012 that helped 11 cities work with afterschool program providers to begin serving meals. NLC broadened the scope of this year's CHAMPS initiative to include an additional focus on summer meals, providing local leaders in a new cohort of cities with resources and strategies to create year-round feeding opportunities for disadvantaged children.
Strong Commitments to Reduce Childhood Hunger
Cities that participated in two regional leadership academies sponsored by NLC last spring were invited to submit proposals demonstrating sustainable plans to provide year-round out-of-school meals to children in need. NLC selected cities for the second phase of the CHAMPS project based on the strength of these proposals and evidence of local commitment and collaboration to increase utilization of federal nutrition programs.
While participating at one of the leadership academies, Mayor Joyce Sutton Cameron of Trotwood, Ohio, stated that addressing child hunger was one of the most important issues for her city and that allowing children to go to bed hungry and wake up hungry was "not an option." The city-led partnership in Trotwood includes the YMCA of Greater Dayton-Trotwood, which will serve as an afterschool sponsor and program provider, and Trotwood-Madison City Schools, which will help more children receive meals through existing summer programming.
Overall, the selected project cities plan to expand existing programs while launching new sites that will provide afterschool and summer meals, with a target of reaching more than 25,000 additional children. For example, Kansas City, Kan., leaders plan to create 10 new afterschool meal sites and 10-12 new summer meal sites while at the same time transitioning all 24 of their current sites from serving afterschool snacks toward serving afterschool meals. They also plan to expand summer meal service at existing sites from two to three meals per day.
Many cities plan to use their regranted funding to strengthen efforts that have been strained by local fiscal challenges at a time of increased need. For example, budget shortfalls led Tacoma, Wash., to close six summer meal sites last year and limit the number of weeks of food service at other sites. Yet, despite these funding constraints, the city reported an increase of almost 17,000 meals and snacks served in 2012 compared to 2011.
The city plans to use its grant funds to increase the number and length of service of summer meal sites, convert current afterschool snack programs to afterschool meal programs, and establish relationships with potential meal site partners around the city - including libraries, clubs and schools - so that all of the city's children can be a short walk away from a needed meal.
NLC and FRAC will continue to work with cities selected for the second phase of this project by providing in-depth technical assistance and training that will help each city develop and implement its plans to expand community-based summer and afterschool meal programs. Additionally, participating cities will convene midway through the project grant year to share experiences and lessons learned, and to brainstorm about their sustainability plans.