Allentown is one of 14 cities selected by the National League of Cities (NLC), in partnership with Food Research and Action Center (FRAC), to attend the CHAMPS: Cities Combating Hunger Leadership Academy in Kansas City, Missouri next month.
Allentown was selected because of the commitment of city leadership to reduce hunger for families, the ability of partners to strengthen meal programs, and the ability of the city to develop a strong citywide campaign that encourages the entire community to act.
During the Leadership Academy, leaders will learn the requirements for receiving federal dollars to implement the Afterschool and Summer Meal programs and best practices for increasing utilization of these programs, as well as gaining guidance from field experts and broadening relationships with peers in cities across the country.
By participating in the Leadership Academy, Allentown will be eligible for a grant of up to $150,000 and receive technical assistance from NLC and FRAC in developing an anti-hunger campaign which will expand out-of-school meal programs.
“I want to thank City Council President Roger MacLean for pursuing this project while he served as acting mayor,” said Mayor Ray O’Connell. “We have seen tremendous impact from the Summer Food Service Program at our 18 playground sites and other locations. Our kids will be able to reap even more benefits if we can expand the program.”
Meals are served to 1500 children through the Federal Summer Food Service Program at a total of 64 sites in Allentown through the first week in August. The Allentown School District is the sole sponsoring agency. That compares to 17,000 children served daily during the school year.
The city hopes to expand the number of sponsors and continue it through the entire month of August until school resumes. 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 city has approached two potential sponsors that are willing to explore participating in the Summer Food Service Program.
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.
Allentown Health Bureau Nutrition & Physical Activity Manager Tina Amato and City Councilperson Daryl Hendricks will represent the city at the Leadership Academy in Kansas City.
Other cities selected to attend the Leadership Academy include: Little Rock, AR; Mesa, AZ; Inglewood, CA; Miami, FL; Miami Gardens, FL; St. Louis, MO; Jackson, MS; Durham, NC; Winston-Salem, NC; Henderson, NV; Denton, TX; Waco, TX; and Spokane, WA.
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.