Allentown will receive a $125,000 competitive grant and 18 months of technical assistance from the National League of Cities (NLC) and the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) to expand after school and out-of-school meal programs.
Allentown is one of just six cities selected to receive a grant, joining Durham, North Carolina; Jackson, Mississippi; Little Rock, Arkansas; Miami Gardens, Florida; and Winston-Salem, North Carolina.
Allentown Health Bureau Nutrition & Physical Activity Manager Tina Amato and City Councilperson Daryl Hendricks represented the city at the NLC’s CHAMPS: Cities Combating Hunger Leadership Academy in Kansas City, Missouri in May, making the city eligible to compete for the grant.
Mayor Ray O’Connell is committed to reducing hunger for families and developing a strong citywide campaign that encourages the entire community to act. That’s where the grant comes in.
“Just a few short weeks ago we announced five new summer meal sites at the Allentown Public Library, Lehigh Valley Hospital-17th St, Greater Valley YMCA Allentown, Alliance Hall of Allentown, and Mosser Village Family Center,” said O’Connell. “The grant funds will help us build upon that effort.”
Hendricks said, "I was quite honored to learn that our city was awarded this grant. I believe it is a testament to the hard work and commitment of our employees, most especially in the Health Bureau. Their ongoing efforts to reduce hunger in the lives of our residents, especially our youth, is commendable. I look forward to assisting in the implementation of this grant and to the day that no child may suffer from a lack of food and proper nutrition."
"With mayors at the forefront of these local anti-hunger campaigns, we know that cities can improve the health and well-being of children and families in their communities,” said Clifford M. Johnson, executive director of National League of Cities Institute for Youth, Education, and Families. “The grant and technical assistance that these CHAMPS cities will receive allows them to find new ways to address hunger and brings the full force of a city, its agencies and staff, nonprofit providers, and business and community leaders at large together to make sure that children have access to the regular meals they need to grow and thrive.”
With support from the Walmart Foundation, NLC has supported 71 cities serving more than 12 million meals to more than 140,000 children through the federal Afterschool and Summer Meal Programs over the last six years.
In Allentown, meals are served to 1500 children through the Federal Summer Food Service Program at more than 60 sites, including the city’s 18 playgrounds, through the first week of August. The Allentown School District prepares these meals as the sponsoring agency. That compares to 17,000 children served daily during the school year.
The summer program currently reaches 9-percent of the city’s eligible school children. According to the Pennsylvania Department of Education, 20-percent of eligible children are reached with summer meals statewide. The city would reach an estimated 3,500 children at the 20-percent level.
The Allentown Health Bureau and the Department of Parks & Recreation, the Allentown School District, Lehigh Valley Children’s Centers, Lehigh Valley Food Policy Council and many community partners including the Lehigh Valley Independent Physician Group and the Lehigh County Medical Society have all supported this initiative.
O’Connell said, “With this grant no child will go hungry in Allentown and being well fed will increase their ability to learn and achieve in the classroom.”
Allentown also has a very successful summer “Fruits and Veggies on the Move” program, where a city pick-up truck delivers fresh fruits and vegetables to all summer playground locations. In January 2012 it was honored as a winner of a US Conference of Mayors Childhood Obesity Prevention Award.
The Food Research & Action Center is the leading national nonprofit organization working to eradicate poverty-related hunger and undernutrition in the United States.
The National League of Cities is dedicated to helping city leaders build better communities. NLC is a resource and advocate for 19,000 cities, towns and villages, representing more than 218 million Americans. The Institute for Youth, Education, and Families, a special entity within the National League of Cities, helps municipal leaders take action on behalf of the children, youth, and families in their communities.