One of the Food Bank’s most critical missions is the pursuit of providing sufficient nutrition and nutritional education to feed the growing bodies and minds of children. This pursuit is driven by the Food Banks’ extraordinary Child Nutrition team.
This team, which has recently experienced a rapid expansion, has established two main focuses: partner outreach and program coordination. The older of the two branches of this team is partner outreach. For twelve years, this team has worked to establish a network of nearly 80 partner local child nutrition providers through which the Food Bank is able to indirectly feed up to 4,500 children at any given time.
Their work, child nutrition programs manager Lauren Babich observes, “is actually very unique to our food bank. We actually have five, soon to be six, dedicated folks that are just in the business of really supporting our partners that are implementing programs to feed kids, and no other food bank really invests that much personnel or resources into that business. We provide all the resources, information, and support that our partners may need to be able to both do their work well and to increase the offering of federal and privately-funded child nutrition programs.”
Lauren adds, “We certainly can’t feed all of the kids in our 11-county service area directly. That’s not a goal of ours, but we want all those kids to be fed, and we do that through our partners. I’m excited that our team is now equipped to be able to do that. It may be through technical assistance, sharing information, connecting them to other partners, or through grants and other resources.”
Lauren is particularly excited about this team’s most recent project.
“We’re rolling out a new program this year called the Child Hunger Hero program, which we are super excited about because it is a tool that our partners can use,” she explains. This project allows their partners to compare themselves to a set of ‘standardized criteria’ which will give them a score on how well and how much above and beyond they’re going.
The newer and rapidly expanding Programs team also serves the Food Bank’s mission by hosting sponsored distribution sites, such as Summer Youth Cafes, through which the Food Bank directly provides children with the food they need. While the team has only hosted these sponsored sites since October 2018, they are already making a huge impact making meals available to kids when and where they’re most needed.
These components of the child nutrition team work in tandem to “improve the nutritional quality of the food that kids are getting at sites,” says Erin Spangler, nutrition and wellness coordinator at the Food Bank.
Members of this team are also eagerly providing services beyond direct food assistance. Though their efforts were halted by the pandemic, Erin says she looks forward to getting back to returning to another asset of their services: providing nutrition education opportunities at child nutrition sites and backpack programs.