The Emerson National Hunger Fellows Program helps develop leaders dedicated to fighting hunger, poverty and social inequality. For the past six months Second Harvest Food Bank played host to two of these fellows, Samantha Stevens and David Lazere. While here, they researched school breakfast and summer meal programs in our area. Their final reports will help the Food Bank create partnerships with schools and other community organizations, like libraries, to provide more meals to kids in need.
Samantha researched access to summer meals and found that participation is staggeringly low compared to those who get free or reduced priced lunch during the school year. She helped identify some of the barriers preventing participation, including limited hours, lack of transportation for kids, food quality, and the not providing meals to parents. Additionally, she found that sites with programming like a literacy program or a summer camp, had much higher rates of participation. Her recommendations will shape how the Food Bank staff markets summer meals and how we approach prospective sites.
David researched school breakfast programs in our area, which also suffer from low participation, especially in comparison to subsidized lunch programs. His report outlined obstacles to participation which included scheduling and the stigma of participation, especially among middle and high school students. David’s report recommends that schools switch to universal free breakfast, a “Breakfast After the Bell” model, which integrates the service of breakfast into the school day or to offer “grab ‘n go” mobile carts. These recommendations will help the Food Bank work with our school partners to make breakfast more accessible to hungry kids.
It wasn’t all work and no play during David and Samantha’s time at Second Harvest. While promoting the school breakfast program at an elementary school, they dressed up in vegetable costumes and found themselves instant celebrities. Samantha says, “All the kids wanted our autographs. We were signing as ‘Corn’ or ‘Pea’, and the kids wanted to know if the vegetables were friends or if the corn and the pea were boyfriend and girlfriend – it was so funny.”
As part of the Emerson Hunger Fellows program dictates, they’ve moved on to their policy placements in Washington, D.C. – Samantha at the National Family Farm Coalition and David at MAZON – A Jewish Response to Hunger. We wish them well and thank them for their service!