by Tim Mudd
NLC’s Institute for Youth, Education and Families has selected 11 cities to receive technical assistance and grant funding as part of a national initiative to reduce childhood hunger.
As part of the Cities Combating Hunger through Afterschool Meal Programs (CHAMP) initiative, the following cities will receive grants of up to $60,000 and practical guidance as they take steps to increase children’s participation in the federal Afterschool Meal Program:
NLC is coordinating the CHAMP initiative in partnership with the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) with support from the Walmart Foundation. Cities that participated in one of two NLC leadership academies held last May in Washington, D.C., and Chicago, as well as cities that have developed coordinated systems of afterschool programming, were invited to participate in a competitive application process for this technical assistance project.
“The City of Orlando is honored to receive this grant from the Walmart Foundation through the CHAMP initiative,” said Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer. “We are committed to moving the needle on this issue, and look forward to putting these dollars to work in our community to help our most disadvantaged children obtain the nutritious food they need in order to be healthy and productive.”
The federal Afterschool Meal Program reimburses city agencies, schools and nonprofit organizations that provide nutritious meals at their afterschool and weekend programs for children and youth. Afterschool programs can receive this federal funding if they have an educational or enrichment component and are located in an area in which at least 50 percent of the children are qualified for free and reduced-price school meals.
Federal Dollars Left on the Table
Each of the project cities faces unique challenges in its efforts to reduce childhood hunger. For instance, more than 26,000 children in Omaha struggle each day with food insecurity, defined as the limited or uncertain ability to acquire nutritionally adequate food.
In spite of the high levels of need, many schools and community organizations are not accessing federal resources available to reimburse them for serving healthy meals to children. Currently, 11 percent of Omaha Public Schools programs have no federal feeding programs and less than 27 percent of the 260 Omaha area out-of-school time (OST) program sites participate in the federal Child and Adult Care Program (CACFP), which provides funding to child care and afterschool providers that serve meals.
With assistance from NLC and FRAC, the city plans to enhance utilization of federal funding by school-based afterschool programs and serve meals to 3,000 additional students. Through the use of toolkits and training, the city will partner with afterschool and anti-hunger coalitions to inform school district nutrition services staff and OST program providers about qualifications and processes for afterschool meal program reimbursement so that they can leverage federal funding.
Eliminating Barriers to Participation
Children comprise a disproportionate number of residents living in Denver neighborhoods that are officially classified as food deserts. Moreover, 72 percent of school-aged children in Denver are eligible for the free or reduced price lunch program. The expansion of the federal Afterschool Meal Program to all 50 states presents the city with a significant opportunity to increase the number of children who receive healthy meals after school.
Upon reviewing the results of a recent survey, the Mayor’s Office for Education and Children (MOEC) found that OST programs and Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) sites lacked proper equipment such as refrigerators or warmers to safely store food, were unaware of the federal meal programs and whether their program would qualify, and were deterred by the cumbersome application process for participation in these programs.
Through the CHAMP initiative, MOEC seeks to become an approved CACFP sponsor for the Afterschool Meal Program. In that capacity, the city will address these barriers to participation and provide administrative support, with a goal of expanding the number of participating community-based OST providers by at least 15 and increasing the number of children who receive healthy afterschool meals by approximately 1,500.
The city also plans to help 10 OST program sites gain access to food heating and/or cooling equipment, provide at least 50 percent of community-based OST providers with information about available federal resources, and track progress in increasing the number of OST providers that participate in the Afterschool Meal Program on an ongoing basis.
NLC and FRAC will provide cities with customized assistance, access to best practices and national experts, and opportunities for peer learning and exchange as they develop and implement strategic approaches for increasing utilization of the Afterschool Meal Program. Emphasis will be placed on cross-system collaboration among city agencies, school districts and local anti-hunger groups.
At the conclusion of the initiative in December 2012, CHAMP project cities will meet to reflect on lessons learned, share best practices and discuss next steps to sustain local efforts.
Details: For more information about the CHAMP initiative, contact Imani Hope at (202) 626-3180 or firstname.lastname@example.org or Laura Fischer at (202) 626-3056 or email@example.com. For more information about the federal Afterschool Meal Program, visit FRAC’s afterschool nutrition resource webpage at http://bit.ly/K51qlO or contact Signe Anderson at firstname.lastname@example.org or Kate Sims at email@example.com.