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Understanding Participant Experience
meal distribution

An understanding of low-income families' everyday lives, as well as their experience with federal child nutrition programs, can help us design new programs and services and improve the user experience of existing programs. Read reports that summarize learnings from interviews and focus groups with low-income caregivers.

Understanding the Gap in Participation in Summer Meals Programs

In 2019, free summer meals were available from more than 1,300 locations in New York City.  However, participation in these programs remains strikingly low, as is the case nationwide. While survey research has documented that many low-income families do not take advantage of summer meals programs, there has been little in-depth qualitative work exploring why. In 2019, No Kid Hungry partnered with The Research Alliance for New York City Schools at New York University to begin to address that question.  Drawing on in-depth focus groups with families from neighborhoods with high levels of food insecurity, this study provides insight into their summertime nutritional needs, as well as how summer meal programs might be more responsive to those needs.

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Supporting the ideas of programmatic partners
van delivering meals

Schools, nonprofits, community-based organizations, and others are constantly coming up with new ideas to reach more kids with healthy food and improve their programs. Read about the innovative work meal providers across the country are doing and be inspired to implement your own program innovations.

2019 Hunger Innovation Report

Despite a myriad of federal nutrition programs and an army of dedicated organizations and individuals working to minimize its impact, hunger persists. Innovative efforts to tackle childhood hunger have been successful at connecting kids with food. But we need to continue to identify new strategies and approaches to ensure that every kid has the food they need to thrive. That is why we launched a national survey aimed at understanding how stakeholders are testing and implementing new strategies for addressing child hunger. This report summarizes what we learned.

Innovations In Child Nutrition Programs During COVID-19 And Beyond

When the pandemic forced schools to close this past spring, everything changed. Many meal providers found themselves rapidly adapting their operations to reach kids in their communities. In some instances, these new models and programs really worked, sometimes better than before. This report showcases their most creative tactics, illustrated by case studies that were informed by interviews. Innovative ideas fell broadly into five categories: innovations in meals served, outreach, delivery, partnership, and innovations beyond food. 

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Serving caregivers and communities
box meal delivery

Federal child nutrition programs help ensure that kids receive nutritious meals. Fewer programs exist to support caregivers and communities. Read about some pilots designed to feed the whole family.

Adult Meals: Eating Together Can Make All the Difference

Many caregivers value time spent eating together as a family.  But, child nutrition programs like the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) can make it hard for families to do so. When it comes to summer meals, this means that some families are forced to choose between eating what they have left at home together or going to a summer meal site where only the kids will get a meal. Meriden Food and Nutrition Services had a hunch that being able to eat together would make a difference for the kids that they serve and for their summer meals program.

Weekend Meals: Identifying New Ways to Provide Meals Seven Days a Week

The national summer meals program is a lifeline for children in need, but most summer sites are only open Monday to Friday. For children that look to this program for support, this means that Saturdays and Sundays can be the toughest days of the week. Feeding Tampa Bay (FTB), a food bank located on the Gulf Coast of Florida, theorized that weekend meals could be a game-changer.

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Food+: Addressing food insecurity as well as other needs
family in kitchen

Low-income caregivers juggle many challenges as they care for their kids while trying to make ends meet. Explore strategies for addressing families’ food needs while also meeting other needs.

How to Put Kids in Control at Summer Meal Sites 

Food is more exciting when you play an active role in its creation. Common Threads Farms (CTF) theorized that there had to be a way to do this through the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP). Borrowing from their background as nutrition educators, they created a summer meals program with a unique twist: rather than be the passive recipients of food served, each day kids would learn about nutrition, new foods, and basic kitchen skills, and then have the chance to practice what they learned by preparing their own summer meals. When mealtime was over, program staff would join kids outside for fun and games.

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WIC innovations
kids eating breakfast

The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) is a federal nutrition program that provides low-income, nutritionally at-risk pregnant women, postpartum women, infants, and children up to age 5 with healthy food and nutrition education. Yet, only 3 out of 5 eligible people participate in the program and participation drops significantly after a child turns one. Explore strategies for improving the WIC participant experience in order to overcome barriers to participation in the program.

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Innovations in school meals
girls laughing and eating lunch

The National School Lunch and Breakfast Programs provide free or low-cost, nutritious meals to kids. Explore strategies for increasing participation in these programs to ensure that kids have the food they need to learn and thrive.

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Bringing summer meals closer to where kids live and play
kids playing

The Summer Food Service Program provides free meals to kids in low-income areas when school is not in session. Yet, accessing these programs can be difficult for families. Explore strategies for making participation in these programs more desirable and more accessible.

Turning Homes and Yards into Summer Meal Sites

For families to access summer meal sites, it is important that their transportation needs be front of mind. Prairie Family Center, a nonprofit in a small town in Colorado, had to get creative to increase the accessibility of their sites. Knowing that many families could not make the trip to and from town to their one summer meal site located at a school, they turned to the community itself, asking residents to open up their homes and yards as summer meal sites. While it seemed like the approach might work, placing summer meal sites in homes and yards was a radical shift from serving meals in the school cafeteria.

Community Meals: A New Model to Reach Kids in the Summertime

Each year schools, nonprofits, and community centers seek new opportunities to provide much-needed summer nutrition to kids under the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP). While many sponsors work actively to add new summer meals sites and increase meals served, the number of summer meals served nationwide continues to decline. The impact of this decline in service can be felt especially hard in rural America. To increase the number of sites and summer meal participation, No Kid Hungry (NKH) ran an innovation test in summer 2018 in which families served as site supervisors, managing new sites.

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Challenges and innovations during COVID-19
meals in covid

When the coronavirus pandemic forced schools to close, the Program Innovation team conducted a national survey of those providing meals to kids to learn more about their challenges and successes. Read about the challenges meal providers face, as well as the innovative strategies some are employing to ensure that kids in their communities continue to receive meals.

Feeding Kids During COVID-19: A Survey Of Organizations Serving Kids

In May 2020, No Kid Hungry’s Center for Best Practices distributed a survey to organizations serving food to kids in the context of COVID-19 school closures. Schools and other community organizations shared details about how they are serving meals and other food to families, the worries that are keeping them up at night, the children they fear they are not reaching, and the innovative strategies that are working well for them right now. Their responses provide insight into the challenges confronting organizations serving kids as they embark on the next school year.

Innovations In Child Nutrition Programs During COVID-19 And Beyond

When the pandemic forced schools to close this past spring, everything changed. Many meal providers found themselves rapidly adapting their operations to reach kids in their communities. In some instances, these new models and programs really worked, sometimes better than before. This report showcases their most creative tactics, illustrated by case studies that were informed by interviews. Innovative ideas fell broadly into five categories: innovations in meals served, outreach, delivery, partnership, and innovations beyond food. 

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