Youth Ambassador Program

From 2011 to 2023, the No Kid Hungry Youth Ambassador Program worked with local nonprofit partners to give undergraduate students opportunities to help end childhood hunger in their communities.

This program was unique in that it operated as an unbiased grant program. The emphasis was placed on building equitable practices while hiring undergraduate interns. By centering equity in each phase of the program, we were able to reach vulnerable communities while empowering young people. Although the program ended in 2023, we have compiled learnings and resources into this toolkit. Our goal is for partners to utilize these resources to replicate or improve their employment programs.

For the purpose of this toolkit, we categorize partners as grant organizations or host organizations. Grant organizations provide funding for host sites to hire interns. A grant organization can be its own host site. A host site is an organization that "hosts" or "houses" the interns with funding from the grant organization. The toolkit breaks down program implementation by grant organization and host site, as the process differs for both. 

Why Youth Engagement?

College students provide tremendous value to anti-hunger organizations in various ways, including capacity, relationships, and perspective. 

Internship programs allow organizations to increase their capacity while giving students tangible experiences in the nonprofit sector. Organizations may find hiring long-term, full-time staff in an inconsistent economic environment challenging. Students can fill that gap through part-time, contractual positions. To be successful, the internship must be symbiotic and provide mutually beneficial outcomes for the interns. The implementation portion of the toolkit will dive deeper into best practices for hiring, recruitment, and program operation. 

Interns can build strong relationships with youth participating in federal nutrition programs. As they are closer in age to the kids and teens in the community, they can relate better than average adults working in the programs. Adults can be intimidating, while interns can bridge the age gap and be more relatable. Many young people look up to the interns as mentors. Interns need to reflect the communities they work in so youth can see themselves in the program. The hiring and recruitment section of the toolkit will provide more detail on how to achieve a diverse internship program. 

In addition to capacity and relationship building, student interns provide a valuable perspective into the programs. Based on their age and experience, they can provide fresh ideas that have yet to be tried. Their relationships with program participants, not only help them relate, but also help them ideate in meaningful and productive ways. It is crucial to foster creativity and give room for these ideas. Different perspectives are necessary to make improvements to the federal nutrition programs. Our youth ambassadors have done everything from creating enrichment activities to conducting outreach to gamifying surveys to get feedback from youth participants. Students have the potential to address challenges and barriers in new and exciting ways; they need the space and support to do so. The implementation portion of the toolkit will provide greater details on how to foster creative spaces to access student insights.

Image of Student smiling and wearing an orange "Team No Kid Hungry" pin
Program Recruitment

Partner Recruitment: October through November 
As a granting organization, you should expect to recruit and support potential applicants for the program. Recruitment can include outreach through emails, phone calls, or fliers. By casting a wide net, you can limit implicit bias to funding the same partners repeatedly and find new partners that may not have grant support and could benefit the most from increased capacity. We prioritized rural and under-resourced communities in our partner recruitment, even sharing the partner application in advance and providing regular feedback on the application as needed. Through this intentional recruitment and support, we increased partner applications by 264% in the first year of the change.

Partner Application

Partner Application Open: December

Partner applications should be open for at least four weeks to give organizations ample time to apply. Some organizations may need more time than others, so this time helps maintain an equitable process for the program and accessibility to it.

Partner Application Deadline

Partner Application Deadline: January

  1. Some partners may have a long holiday break at the end of December, so a January deadline can be helpful to accommodate those partners.
Application Decisions

Application Decisions: February

  1. Application decisions should be made quickly to give ample time for hiring and recruitment of students.
Hiring and Recruitment

Hiring and Recruitment: February through April

  1. Once host partners are selected, the partners should develop an online application for the role. 
  2. Partners should develop and distribute job descriptions for the role. 

Partners should tailor and use the recruitment plans that were submitted as part of the partner application.

Program End

Program End

Learn more about how to end the program.

Hiring and Recruitment

Hiring and Recruitment: February through April

  1. Partners should develop and distribute job descriptions for the role. These job descriptions will be shared to promote the position during recruitment.
  2. Partners should tailor and use the recruitment plans that were submitted as part of the partner application. These recruitment plans are essential to gather a pool of interested candidates. 
  3. Partners should review student applications, reach out to candidates, and conduct interviews
  4. Once selections have been made, partners should send out an offer letter
Program Start

Program Start: May/June

  1. Once interns are in place, they should receive a starter kit for the program. The starter kit should include useful information, like summaries of the federal nutrition programs, their work plan, a training schedule, and an acronym one-pager
  2. Granting Organizations should provide interns with trainings throughout the program. Partners should create and adapt presentations based on student interest. Here are some examples of previous trainings given to youth ambassadors: 
    1. Program Expectations
    2. Summer Meals 101
    3. Using Excel
    4. Rural Hunger and Food Insecurity
    5. Grant Making
    6. Food Skills
Program End

Program End: August

Students should complete an anonymous survey and a non anonymous survey. An anonymous survey allows students to be open and honest, without any concern about repercussions for their answers. This is an opportunity to get clarity and improve the program based on their comments. A non anonymous survey allows students to share how this experience impacted them, and gather helpful anecdotes to share to future interns or staff.