Can Your City Stand to Lose Afterschool Funding?

The president’s budget proposal includes a $1.2 billion cut to school programs that will impact more than 1,600,000 children and their families.

There are a number of ways city leaders can strengthen partnerships and build public will to support afterschool initiatives like the 21st Century Community Learning Center program. (Getty Images)

This April recess, NLC is encouraging city leaders to engage with their members of Congress while they are at home in their districts for two weeks. Don’t let Congress leave America’s cities behind — join us as we #FightTheCuts proposed in the administration’s budget.

This post was co-authored by Nan Whaley and Bela Shah Spooner. It is part of a series on the 2018 federal budget.

Last month, President Donald Trump released his 2018 federal budget proposal, which contains across-the-board cuts to programs that are critical to cities. Included in those cuts was the elimination of the only federal funding stream dedicated to supporting quality afterschool and summer learning programs for 1.6 million children across the country who attend high-poverty, low-performing schools — the 21st Century Community Learning Center (21st CCLC) grants.

The programs funded through 21st CCLC grants provide essential academic and enrichment supports to children and young teens after school and during the summer while also providing a critical value to working parents, businesses and city leaders. Programs run from the time when school lets out around 3:00 p.m. until 6:00 or 7:00 p.m., enabling parents to stay at work knowing that their children are safe and learning. Kids in these programs also often receive an after-school snack or meal through additional federal funding that originates from the U.S. Department of Agriculture; sometimes it’s the only meal they will have until the next morning.

For working parents, these afterschool programs are a lifeline, helping them work those extra few hours each day to pay the bills and providing their children a nutritious meal. For businesses, these programs mean employees with children are more likely to have peace of mind when their children are out of school, keeping productivity high. For cities, these programs keep their communities safe, incentivize businesses to locate in places where employees have supports, and engage children in learning and on a path to graduation — all while helping the future generation develop key skills to land a job and support the local economy in the future.

Municipal leaders all know that successful, productive young people equal a successful city. Without these essential programs on which kids, families and communities rely, cities will be faced with hundreds or thousands of kids with no place to go after school. No one needs to tell a mayor, city councilmember, police chief or chamber of commerce executive how much of a problem that could be.

These programs also provide a critical service to parents and caregivers, allowing them to continue to work during these hours and thus contributing to the local economy and their own economic mobility.

National Demand for Afterschool Programs

There has long been a national demand for federal funding for afterschool programs. Congress first authorized the 21st Century Community Learning Center program in 1998 for $40 million. Based on documented need and demand, it was reauthorized in 2002 through the No Child Left Behind Act for $1 billion, transferring the administration of the grants from the U.S. Department of Education to state education agencies. The 21st CCLC program was again reauthorized in 2015 through the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) for $1.167 billion, showing bipartisan support and recognition of the importance of this funding stream for afterschool programs. Each state receives a fixed amount of 21st CCLC dollars, based on its share of Title I funding for low-income students, and afterschool programs at the local level apply for these dollars.

Even with this funding, hundreds of applications in each state are denied each year due to lack of funds. National data show that, while 10.2 million children participate in afterschool programs, almost 20 million children are waiting to get in. Cutting another million children out of programs puts our cities and families at risk.

In Dayton alone, 12,000 additional children would benefit from access to 21st CCLC afterschool and summer programs that currently support 40,000 children across the state of Ohio. This story is not unique to Dayton or any one city or town.

Nationwide, cities need these programs. As part of its City of Learners initiative, the city of Dayton has committed to preparing its young people for success in life and careers through afterschool and summer learning programs that help children and youth develop the skills that will put them on a path to success. It is vital for municipal leaders to understand the importance of federal funding for afterschool programs and the real impact they have on the lives of children and families in our communities. A tremendous burden will be on cities to respond if these funds are cut.

Lending Your Voice

The National League of Cities (NLC) has joined with the Afterschool Alliance, 139 national and more than 1,000 state and local organizations calling on House and Senate appropriators to reject the president’s proposed budget and fund the 21st Century Community Learning Centers initiative at or above its current level of $1.167 billion. Now is the time for you to lend your voice to this effort. Contact your member of Congress to ensure that they know the direct impact these proposed budget cuts will have on their communities and in their state. Here are four easy ways you can help:

  • Find out how many children in your state need afterschool programs and connect with your statewide afterschool network to learn how many kids are served by 21st CCLC programs in your community. Share those numbers with your representatives, either in a face-to-face meeting in your district or through a phone call to their office. Adding local stories to these numbers is critical.
  • Visit a 21st Century Community Learning Center in your city or town and hold a press conference about its value and how the proposed budget cuts could eliminate this critical program. Galvanize support in your community to contact your representatives to save the program.
  • Write an op-ed in your local newspaper on the importance of this program to your city and community. Send the article to your representative as well.
  • Contact Bela Shah Spooner at NLC to share your concern and learn more about NLC’s efforts to fight these cuts. NLC staff are always prepared to support you in your efforts to advocate for programs that are important to cities.

The Afterschool Alliance and the Senate Afterschool Caucus invite you to attend Afterschool and Summer Learning Programs: Preparing Young People for 21st Century Success, a briefing on Friday, April 21 at 1:00 p.m. EDT in room 385 of the Russell Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. NLC is co-sponsoring the briefing; please contact Bela Shah Spooner for more information.

About the authors:

Nan Whaley is the mayor of Dayton, Ohio.

 

Bela Shah Spooner is the program manager for expanded learning at the NLC Institute for Youth, Education, and Families.

NLC, LinkedIn Use Data to Help Six Cities Expand Access to Higher Education and Workforce Development

“Cities will be able to look at the broader landscape of employers, higher education institutions, jobs and local skill sets, and connect these data points to better understand the trends showing how individual residents are connecting to education and gaining meaningful employment.”

Together with the Kresge Foundation, NLC is working to create opportunities in education and employment by partnering with LinkedIn to use data-driven solutions to support local economies. (Getty Images)

As part of the Institute for Youth, Education, and Families’ Kresge Foundation-funded work, the National League of Cities (NLC) has teamed up with LinkedIn to provide six cities data support in their efforts to increase postsecondary and workforce success in their communities.

The partnership gives the cities — Austin, Texas; Charleston, South Carolina; Corpus Christi, Texas; Houston, Texas; Jacksonville, Florida; and Nashville, Tennessee — access to LinkedIn data and resources such as the LinkedIn Workforce Report. These insights include whether hiring in the city is up or down, which skills workers have and employers need most (and the gap between the two), and how many people are moving in and out of cities (and what their skills are).

”Cities will be able to look at the broader landscape of employers, higher education institutions, jobs and local skill sets, and connect these data points to better understand the trends showing how individual residents are connecting to education and gaining meaningful employment. We define skills gaps as the mismatch between the skills workers have and the skills employers need. Skills gaps are local, and specific to individual cities. When cities know which skills are in local demand, they can create workforce development programs that are responsive to the needs of both workers and employers, and ultimately boost employment and productivity,” said Nicole Isaac, LinkedIn’s head of U.S. policy. “We are excited to be able to share these types of insights with our partner cities.”

NLC believes its partnership with LinkedIn and the structure of the city teams participating in the technical assistance cohort will help local stakeholders, including city governments, to come together to find meaningful and sustainable solutions for their communities.

“Over and over again, we stress to our cities the importance of using data to develop and strengthen policy, as well as the need for critical partnerships with local stakeholders,” said National League of Cities CEO and Executive Director Clarence E. Anthony. “Our partnership with LinkedIn in this Kresge-funded work epitomizes this approach. City leaders working with teams that include higher education and Chamber of Commerce partners, as well as NLC and LinkedIn experts, will be able to use local data to craft programs that ensure their residents have equitable access to postsecondary education and workforce success.”

To participate in this NLC technical assistance cohort, city teams are required to include representatives from local institutions of higher education and the local chamber of commerce. In understanding the role of cities as economic engines, mayors and their partners will work together to ensure pathways exist for all citizens to earn both education and employment, with the ultimate goal of building vibrant local economies.

“The partnership with the NLC comes at a great time — really, an ideal time — to connect the dots on what we’re already doing around the city,” said Gilda Ramirez, vice president of small business and education for the United Corpus Christi Chamber of Commerce. “We have such a wonderful economic forecast, so we’re setting out our career pathways and preparing our workforce.”

These civic leaders from government, business and higher education know that a college-educated community brings both personal and citywide benefits. On average, an individual who earns a four-year degree contributes $278,000 more over their lifetime to a local economy than a high school graduate, and an associate’s degree earner contributes $81,000 more, according to the Brookings Institution and an analysis of U.S. Census data. NLC is well positioned to create pathways to opportunity, working alongside local government, chambers of commerce and higher education to increase postsecondary and workforce success, and through this partnership with LinkedIn looks to find scalable solutions for cities beyond the six taking part in the technical assistance cohort.

Learn more about NLC’s work in this arena and get the latest updates here.

About the author: Dana D’Orazio is the program manager for postsecondary education at the NLC Institute for Youth, Education, and Families.

Don’t Cut Funding for Programs That Help Children Thrive in Cities Across the Country

Federally-funded programs like those slated for elimination in President Trump’s 2018 Budget Blueprint have a proven record of results for young children, and simply cannot survive without continued federal support.

Group of young children drawing with chalk on the sidewalk

Local leaders agree that early investment in a child’s development can make all the difference when it comes to the future success of their youngest residents. (Getty Images)

This April recess, NLC is encouraging city leaders to engage with their members of Congress while they are at home in their districts for two weeks. Don’t let Congress leave America’s cities behind — join us this week and next as we #FightTheCuts proposed in the administration’s budget.

This post is part of a series on the 2018 federal budget.

Ask any city leader and they will tell you that giving children a strong start in life is one of the most important investments we can make toward building vibrant and prosperous communities. This is not just anecdotal — research tells us that 90 percent of a child’s brain development has occurred by the age of five, with 700 neural connections per second being formed during the early years of a child’s brain development.

At the National League of Cities (NLC), we amplify the work local leaders are doing to increase early childhood opportunities for young children. Through partnerships with NLC’s Institute for Youth, Education, and Families, cities are aligning systems for young children to improve outcomes for children and their families.

City leaders can significantly advance local progress through programs, policies and the alignment of systems that impact young children, but this work exists within a federal and state context. From help paying the high costs of child care to seats in a Head Start classroom, federally-funded programs like those slated for elimination in President Trump’s 2018 Budget Blueprint have a proven record of results for young children, and simply cannot survive without continued federal support. This budget proposal will harm city leaders’ abilities to foster high-quality early childhood opportunities and support families.

While the blueprint is only a “skinny budget,” we can expect to see a larger plan in the near future that details the more than $54 billion in proposed cuts to domestic programs that help children and families in cities thrive. Cuts to key departments like Health and Human Services should alarm city leaders whose communities benefit from programs like Head Start, which serves over a million children each year.

Classrooms in every state in the country help young children develop cognitive and developmental skills and establish habits that shape their future health outcomes. Without Head Start, many more of our most vulnerable parents would be without an early education setting for their children. Long waiting lists mean that less than half of eligible three- and four-year-olds are able to participate in Head Start.

The Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) is another example of a federal program investing in early childhood. Despite its lengthy name, its purpose is simple: to help parents afford child care. The cost of child care is out of reach for too many families. Center-based infant care is more expensive than one year of public university tuition in 30 states and Washington, D.C.

The experiences children have in child care lay the foundation for their cognitive development and allow their parents to work and pursue education. Every year, businesses lose approximately $4.4 billion due to employee absenteeism as a result of child care breakdowns. However, current levels of funding prevent five out of six eligible children from receiving CCDBG dollars to help their parents afford care.

These are just two examples of the federal programs that work to improve outcomes for young children in cities nationwide. A lack of funding for these critical programs already leaves many needs unmet, and further cuts to domestic programs would risk eliminating this support altogether. On behalf of city leaders, we strongly encourage Congress to stand with children, families and cities across the country and stop cuts to key early childhood programs that our cities’ children and families rely on.

Learn more about NLC’s #FightTheCuts campaign.

About the author: Alana Eichner is the Early Childhood Associate in NLC’s Institute for Youth, Education, and Families.

Investing in the First Three Years of Life Can Greatly Impact School Success

Research has proven that high-quality early childhood programs – particularly those targeted to children at risk for poor outcomes – can provide a considerable return on investment in terms of economic gains and educational outcomes.

Neural connections formed during a child’s first three years of life are vital for healthy brain development and form the foundation for future learning. (Getty Images)

This is a guest post by Mayor Betsy Hodges. It is the second post in a series about the Mayors’ Education Task Force.

It is incumbent upon us as city leaders to create cities that are focused on the future, not just the present. All cities will face similar challenges down the road, from workforce shortages to racial achievement gaps; we must be willing to address those challenges today by forming the next generation of citizens. That means reaching children as early as possible.

In the city of Minneapolis, I have formed the Cradle to K Cabinet to develop and implement a plan of action that makes very young children and their families a priority. Here’s why: research consistently demonstrates that the first three years of life are critical to children’s healthy growth and development. In every second of those first three years, more than 700 new neural connections are formed. These connections are vital for healthy brain development and form the foundation for future learning.

Infant brains are wired to absorb their environment, and positive early experiences in safe, supportive, nurturing environments facilitate healthy development. During this period of early growth and development it is vital that infants and very young children receive positive stimulation from a caring parent or adult that will allow them to grow and thrive.

Unfortunately, not all children receive such positive stimulation; far too many are exposed to toxic and stressful environments that impede their development. As a result, disparities and inequities occur early, and gaps in learning and development widen over time.

Mayor Hodges’ Cradle to K Cabinet consists of multi-sector experts, leaders, and parents working to prevent disparities by aligning policies, closing gaps, and increasing resources where needed to ensure that all Minneapolis children have a healthy start, are stably housed, and have continuous access to high-quality, child-development-centered child care and early education. (City of Minneapolis)

In 2013, Stanford University researcher Anne Fernald found that, by the time a child is two years old, there is already a six-month gap in language comprehension. This means that too many children are already behind by the time they enter school. Such an early learning gap is the strongest predictor of the persistent achievement gap in educational attainment.

Quality early education programs can mitigate these risks. Investments during formative years will ensure that all children get the best possible start to early learning and future school success.

Minnesota economist Art Rolnick’ s substantive research on, and advocacy for, investments in high-quality early childhood programs – particularly those targeted to children at risk for poor outcomes – has proven that they can provide a considerable societal return on investment in terms of economic gains and educational outcomes. For every dollar invested in high-quality early care and education programs, up to $13.00 in future costs are returned. Access to quality early care and education programs helps parents fulfill their parental responsibilities and allows them to go to work and provide for their children. Children that graduate from these programs have yielded benefits in academic achievement, behavior, educational progression and attainment.

I continue to advocate for the necessary federal and state resources that support the healthy development of young children. Federal programs and initiatives like the Child Care and Development Block Grant, Head Start/Early Head Start, Community (or Federally Qualified) Health Centers, the Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC), and Community Development Block Grants are just a few of the federal investments that support this critical need. The loss or significant reduction of these programs would impact the success of our future generations.

City leaders like ourselves must foster early learning and allow children and families to have access to high-quality, accessible early education programs and learning environments that are responsive to the needs of families and ensure that children are on a path to early learning and lifelong success.

For specific information on how you can invest in early childhood education, read NLC’s Early Childhood Learning: Building Blocks for Success and Educational Alignment Framework for Young Children.

About the author: Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges took office in 2014 after spending eight years on the Minneapolis City Council.

Five Issues Tackled by Youth Delegates at the Congressional City Conference

The delegates designed their own sessions focused on leadership and skill development, developed strategies to solve problems in their communities, and learned the importance of advocacy at all levels of government.

Youth delegates at the Congressional City Conference learn to lobby, advocate, and collaborate on the issues that matter most to them. (Jason Dixson/NLC)

This is the fifth post in a series highlighting NLC’s 2017 Congressional City Conference in Washington, D.C., March 11-15.

Youth delegates from 37 cities across the nation convened this week at the 2017 Congressional City Conference in Washington, D.C. In sessions with their peers and other youth allies, the delegates critically analyzed issues in their communities and developed strategies and solutions.

In one of the most engaging sessions, Lobbying and Advocacy: Making the Youth Voice Heard, delegates heard from former congressional staffers as well as current lobbyists and consultants about the importance of the youth voice in all levels of government and their power to make a difference on both a small and large scale.

As part of this session, each youth council represented at the conference identified a problem in their city, formulated a solution, and developed a plan to lobby local, state and federal leaders for change. They then encapsulated the problem, its solution and convincing messaging into a concise elevator pitch. Here are five issues discussed at the session:

Lack of youth involvement in local government: Delegates from Olathe, Kansas, and Fayetteville, North Carolina, identified the potential benefits of increased youth participation in local government, and each youth council took a different approach to this issue. Delegates from Olathe suggested creating a teen council to listen to other youth problems and presenting those problems to city councilmembers. Delegates from Fayetteville created a plan to lower the local voting age to 16 to increase voter turnout and local knowledge. Their strong argument: “Sixteen-year-olds pay taxes if they have jobs – and there should not be taxation without representation!”

Possible loss of Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funding: Delegates from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, identified the importance of CDBG funds in their city that help subsidize many youth programs. One delegate from Milwaukee noted that “these programs affect the longevity and success of youth in our city.”

Plastic pollution in cities: Delegates from Hillsboro, Oregon, described their plan to ban plastic bags in their city as “a way to save the community and contribute to a global movement.” They highlighted the fact that more than 50 percent of plastic bags are used just once and then thrown away.

Mental illness awareness and resources: Delegates from the cities of Brighton and Loveland in Colorado addressed the lack of mental illness awareness and resources in their schools and communities. Both youth councils emphasized reducing teen suicide rates and teaming up with mental health organizations to implement more programs.

Dangers of invasive species: Delegates from Buckeye, Arizona, shared a unique problem in their community: the damage created by an invasive plant, the salt cedar tree. One salt cedar tree can use up to 300 gallons of water per day, meaning that 200,000 households could use the water currently being used by salt cedar trees. Their solution? Release the Salt Cedar Creek Beetle to combat the invasive species. The delegates highlighted the documented success of this strategy, which is already underway in some areas of Texas.

Feedback from the session’s panelists allowed the youth to expand on their ideas and explore ways to make their arguments more powerful. The delegates also learned about the importance of highlighting reliable data and sharing examples of best practices in similar towns and cities.

Youth delegates are sure to take their invaluable experiences at the Congressional City Conference back to their youth councils at home to spark effective change in their communities. Their enduring engagement and involvement in all of the sessions proved their dedication to the betterment of their communities.

About the author: Alessia Riccio is the 2016-2017 National League of Cities Menino Fellow in the partnership between Boston University’s Initiative on Cities and NLC’s Institute for Youth, Education, and Families.

NLC University Seminars Prepare City Leaders for an Uncertain Future

Annually, city leaders from across the nation convene in Washington, D.C. for NLC’s Congressional City Conference. Coupled with traditional conference programming, NLC University is hosting a series of pre-conference seminars designed to prepare city leaders for the road ahead.

The 2017 Congressional City Conference takes place in Washington, D.C., March 11-15. (Getty Images)

This post was co-authored by Chris Abbott and Laura Lanford. It is the first post in a series highlighting NLC’s 2017 Congressional City Conference in Washington, D.C., March 11-15.

Cities are at the forefront of the national economy, public safety, infrastructure and a host of other issues. But with the increased potential for cuts to funding for cities, the need for knowledgeable, connected and engaged city leaders is more critical than ever.

City leaders need to make their voices heard – and the Congressional City Conference is the perfect opportunity for local elected officials to boost their leadership skills. From introductory overviews to in-depth explorations, NLC University seminars at the Congressional City Conference offer participants a wide range of subject areas to choose and benefit from, regardless of their background, experience, region, or size of their municipality.

NLC University is a collaborative educational and professional development initiative that focuses on four key proficiency areas: leadership, management, engagement and issue expertise. The goal of NLC University is to provide municipal leaders with an interactive and engaging approach to refine existing skills and develop strategies to better govern, serve and advocate for their respective communities.

The Value Proposition

NLC University seminars provide one of the largest opportunities for local elected and appointed city officials to receive training from leading issue experts. The interactive training sessions are offered as full- or half-day sessions in which city officials are challenged with problems and concepts relevant to current city environments. The training sessions will stretch conventional thinking by applying creative, innovative solutions.

NLCU seminar participant Lydia Glaize, councilwoman from Fairburn, Georgia, had this to say after attending the Stronger Together: City Manager and City Council Relations seminar:

“One of the best courses I’ve taken through NLC University. The presenters were knowledgeable and connected with their audience. They stated goals for the class at the beginning and wrote them down in terms of outcome-based objectives. The structure worked like a charm.”

2017 NLC University Seminar Lineup at the Congressional City Conference:

  1. Healthy Cities: Lessons Learned from Crisis Leadership
  2. Stronger Together: City Manager and City Council Relations
  3. Urban Plan for Elected Officials
  4. An Introduction to the Intersector Process: Cross-Sector Collaboration in the Public Sector
  5. Congratulations, You Got Elected – Now What?
  6. REAL Action: Advancing Racial Equity in Local Government
  7. The Role of City Leaders in Public Sector Retirement
  8. Fostering Small Business Development and Entrepreneurship
  9. Let’s Talk Climate: Messages to Motivate
  10. The Ethical Leader: Rules and Tools
  11. Understanding Public Finance
  12. Federal Advocacy 101 (offered twice)

Featured trainers and presenters include:

  • Julie Willems Van Dijk – Associate Scientist and Director – County Health Rankings & Roadmaps Program
  • Kathryn Pettit – Senior Research Associate in the Metropolitan Housing and Communities Policy Center – Urban Institute
  • John Chesser – Enterprise Management Analyst – Mecklenburg County; Charlotte, NC
  • Janet A. Phoenix – Assistant Research Professor – George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health
  • Karen Seaver Hill – Director – Children’s Hospital Association
  • Steve Traina – Branch Manager – Institute for Building Technology and Safety
  • Erica Bueno – Program Coordinator – Institute for Building Technology and Safety
  • Brian Delvaux – Contracts Manager – Institute for Building Technology and Safety
  • Blake Ratcliff – Director – Institute for Building Technology and Safety
  • Chris Fennell – Project Leader – IBTS OnHand Resource
  • Mike Conduff – President of the Elim Group and Former City Manager – The Elim Group
  • Jim Hunt – President & Founder of Amazing Cities and Past President of NLC – Amazing Cities
  • Sean Geygen – Urban Land Institute, Washington, DC
  • Sophie Lambert – Senior Director of UrbanPlan – Urban Land Institute, Washington, DC
  • Gideon Berger – Director of the Daniel Rose Fellowship Program – The National League of Cities
  • Jess Zimbabwe – Executive Director of the Daniel Rose Center for Public Leadership – The National League of Cities
  • Jacquelyn Wax – Communications Director – The Intersector Project
  • Neil Britto – Executive Director – The Intersector Project
  • Malcom Chapman – President – The Chapman Group
  • Simran Noor – Vice President of Policy & Programs – Center for Social Inclusion
  • Julie Nelson – Senior Vice-President – Center for Social Inclusion and Director of the Government Alliance for Race and Equity (GARE)
  • Leon Andrews – Director, Race Equity And Leadership (REAL) – National League of Cities
  • John Saeli – Vice President, Government Affairs and Market Development – ICMA-RC
  • Jeannine Markoe Raymond – Director of Federal Relations – National Association of State Retirement Administrators
  • Keith Brainard – Research director – NASRA
  • David Myers – Executive Director – Ponca City Development Authority
  • Penny Lewandowski – Senior consultant, External relations – Edward Lowe Foundation
  • Dan Barry – Director – Path to Positive Communities
  • Scott Paine – Director of Leadership Development and Education at the Florida League of Cities
  • Laura Allen – Town Administrator – Berlin, MD
  • Mike Mucha – Deputy Executive Director and Director – GFOA Research and Consulting Center
  • Ashley Smith – Senior Associate, Grassroots Advocacy – National League of Cities

Join colleagues for one (or many) of the outstanding NLC University seminars offered at the Congressional City Conference. NLC University will also host a Leadership Summit in San Diego, California, October 2-5 as well as pre-conference sessions at the 2017 City Summit in Charlotte, North Carolina, November 15-18.

About the authors:

Chris Abbott is a Senior Associate at the National League of Cities University.

 

 

Laura Lanford is the Principal Associate for Leadership Training at the National League of Cities University.

Four Takeaways from the California Afterschool and Summer Nutrition Summits

For local officials, now is the perfect time to convene community partners to ensure your city is utilizing all available resources that help keep children engaged and healthy when school is out.

Implementing successful meal programs – and sustaining them – takes coordination and collaboration on many levels. (Getty Images)

This post was co-authored by Clarissa Hayes and Dawn Schluckebier. It originally ran as part of the Food Research & Action Center’s FRAC On the Move series, which follows policy and program experts as they connect with advocates across the country to explore strategies and develop solutions to end hunger.

Representatives from the Food Research & Action Center (FRAC) and the National League of Cities (NLC) recently joined the California Department of Education and more than 250 California representatives from local governments, school nutrition departments, food banks, law enforcement agencies, libraries, county health departments, community-based organizations, literacy and youth development agencies at two regional afterschool and summer nutrition summits, one in Richmond and one in San Bernardino County.

Hosted by the California Summer Meal Coalition, the summits provided attendees the opportunity to learn more about federally-funded summer and afterschool meal programs and share ideas and best practices for increasing the number of children served in their communities.

The Coalition – a program of the Institute for Local Government – is a key partner in NLC and FRAC’s Cities Combating Hunger through Afterschool and Summer Meal Programs (CHAMPS) initiative. CHAMPS has provided support to more than 41 cities and 18 anti-hunger organizations across the country to develop and implement strategies to increase children’s access to healthy meals and snacks through the child nutrition programs.

This year, new CHAMPS projects are being launched in three states: Alabama, California, and Kansas. In California, NLC, FRAC and the Coalition are partnering to provide technical assistance to 11 grantee cities and a number of city agencies to increase participation in afterschool and summer meals.

Collaboration was the theme of both summits. Speakers and attendees discussed the importance of collaboration among city, county, school and community leaders to leverage limited resources. In Southern California, the summit was followed by a breakfast for elected city, county and school district leaders to highlight the critical role that elected officials can play to advance the health and well-being of their communities by supporting access to afterschool and summer meal programs.  These roles range from supporting the development of a citywide promotion campaign and participating in local community events to sponsoring and operating the Afterschool and Summer Nutrition Programs and working with county and school colleagues to identify solutions to out-of-school time barriers.

Attendees at both summits left energized and equipped with innovative strategies to try, new partners to engage, and a renewed commitment to year-round nutrition access. Four key summit takeaways:

City leaders can play a critical role in supporting meal programs.

Hayward City Councilman Mark Salinas shared an example of the important role city leaders and elected officials can play in expanding summer and afterschool meal programs. After hearing about the need in his community, and the federal funding available through the afterschool and summer nutrition programs, he engaged community stakeholders and brought partners together to better meet the nutritional needs of the children in his city.

Having a vision and setting goals is important.

Implementing successful meal programs – and sustaining them – takes coordination and collaboration on many levels. Having a vision for your city and setting goals for program growth is important. These programs take time to build, and setting realistic goals helps keep efforts on track. Find out where your state ranks in summer meals participation and where you may be able to target efforts.

No community should work in a vacuum.

To reach more children with summer and afterschool meal programs, it’s important for cities, counties and school districts to work together to ensure the well-being of kids in the community. Thinking holistically about the issue of hunger and the solutions that exist – and how to include out-of-school-time in that conversation – allows us all to think creatively about strategies and the unique strengths every organization can add.

When something works, share it.

When models work locally – whether it be a specific type of marketing campaign, a way to improve the quality and appeal of meals served, or a strategy to engage elected officials – it’s important to share them broadly so they can be scaled and tailored to other communities. FRAC and Feeding America’s Anti-Hunger Policy Conference is a great place to share and learn about successes across the country – register today!

If you are a city leader, now is the perfect time to convene community partners to ensure your city is utilizing all available resources that help keep children engaged and healthy when school is out. Reach out to the anti-hunger advocates in your state to see how you can get started today.

Learn more about CHAMPS and the work being done by the California Summer Meals Coalition.

About the Authors:

Clarissa Hayes is a Child Nutrition Policy Analyst with the Food Research & Action Center.

 

 

Dawn Schluckebier is a Principal Associate for Family Economic Success in NLC’s Institute for Youth, Education, and Families. Follow Dawn on Twitter at @TheSchluck.