The City of Charlottesville will receive a $57,470 grant through the Cities Combating Child Hunger through Afterschool Meal Programs (CHAMP) initiative, along with practical guidance and technical support as it takes steps to increase children's participation in the federal Afterschool Meal Program. With support from the Walmart Foundation, NLC's Institute for Youth, Education and Families is coordinating the CHAMP initiative in partnership with the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC).
"The City Council's vision is to make Charlottesville one of America's healthiest cities," said City Manager Maurice Jones. "Providing access to healthy, nutritious food is a critical part of those efforts. This grant will help the City and our community partners take an important step forward in accomplishing that goal."
NLC and FRAC will provide the City 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.
The grant will be used to provide training for enrichment program staff and food vendors, and for equipment and infrastructure for the program, according to Charlottesville Vice Mayor Kristin Szakos, a member of the team that helped to secure the grant for the City. The benefits of the program will be fourfold, Szakos said.
"This program combats hunger, but it also fights obesity," Szakos said. "Kids who eat a healthy dinner are less likely to come home and fill up on junk food." The dinners also provide an incentive for parents to enroll their children in enrichment programs after school and during school breaks, and will open opportunities for small catering services to secure contracts to provide meals to various out-of-school programs.
The program will be administered by the City Parks and Recreation Department with support from the City Schools' Nutrition Program.
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. Out-of-school 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. The entire City of Charlottesville is eligible, as 54% of the City's public school students are qualified.
The Afterschool Meal Program reinforces in-school learning gains by helping children meet their nutritional needs so they can pay more attention in afterschool settings, as well as drawing them to high-quality out-of-school time programs that have an educational component. Cities can play a unique role in helping afterschool program providers leverage these federal funds to provide healthy meals.
The other cities selected to receive assistance through the CHAMP initiative are Bridgeport, Conn.; Boise, Idaho; Chicago, Ill.; Denver, Colo.; Las Vegas, Nev.; Nashville, Tenn.; Northfield, Minn.; Omaha, Neb.; Orlando, Fla.; and Tampa, Fla.
For more information on the federal Afterschool Meal Program, visit FRAC's afterschool nutrition resource webpage at http://bit.ly/K51qlO.
At the conclusion of the initiative in December 2012, a team from Charlottesville will participate in a meeting with all CHAMP project cities to reflect on lessons learned, share best practices and discuss next steps to sustain local efforts.
The National League of Cities (NLC) is dedicated to helping city leaders build better communities. Working in partnership with the 49 state municipal leagues, NLC serves as a resource to and an advocate for the more than 19,000 cities, villages and towns it represents.