Last week DC Hunger Solutions hosted a Twitter chat on the importance of summer meals. In addition to feeding hungry children, summer meal programs provide safe spaces for children to connect with supportive and caring adults.
This morning, I was having a conversation with my colleague who oversees our healthy out-of-school time work in the District of Columbia; we were discussing an act of violence that happened at an apartment complex where a program we support is based.
During our conversation, Annessa shared, "the hill children are climbing right now is unfairly steep."
The hill is steep, but your out-of-school program is powerful and we know that families, communities and schools working together have the strength to move mountains. But the task isn't easy. From funding to staff turnover, out-of-school programs face their own challenges.
Below is a guest article from one of our healthy out-of-school time sites in City of Bell, California. It tells the story of how City of Bell’s summer camp beat the odds to serve summer meals.
*All photos provided by City of Bell Camp Little Bear
New site leader, Gabino, came into the role with a strong vision for promoting health among staff and youth, including and expanding their already successful Jr. Chef, Food and Fun and Fitness for Kids programming.
With summer approaching quickly and plans for a growing Summer Fun Camp underway, Camp Little Bear staff had plenty on their plate.
But Gabino was undeterred. He dove into one of the goals the previous wellness team had already identified for that year – to adopt the best practice on accessing federal nutrition programs and increase the opportunity for youth in the community to enjoy free healthy meals. He connected with local sponsor LA Regional Food Bank and a few short weeks later - paperwork, site visit and Food Service Handling certification complete – Camp Little Bear’s Summer Fun Camp began serving healthy lunches to up to 100 youth per day.
With summer enrollment increasing week to week, this local partnership with a summer meals sponsor makes it possible for Gabino and his staff to easily modify the number of meals they serve based on weekly attendance.
Now that a healthy and energetic summer is well underway, Gabino is already gearing up a for a new wellness team kick-off meeting that will set the stage and build support for deepening their commitment to health into the 2016-17 school year.
Gabino's experience is a story of determination, partnership and resilience. Rather than giving up in the face of challenges, Gabino met staff turnover head-on. Whatever hill you're climbing or whatever mountain your community needs to move, there's only one way to do it - together.