USDA Hunger Free Communities Grant
In the spring of 2011, the Partnership to End Childhood Hunger in Maryland – which is managed through the Governor’s Office for Children and includes Maryland Hunger Solutions as a core advisor – was awarded a two-year, almost $1 million Hunger-Free Communities (HFC) implementation grant through the Food and Nutrition Services of the United States Department of Agriculture.
The goal of the grant is to significantly reduce hunger and improve nutrition by connecting more Marylanders to the federal nutrition programs, with a focus on eight counties: Allegany, Anne Arundel, Caroline, Carroll, Dorchester, Frederick, Garrett and Montgomery.
The Partnership to End Childhood Hunger in Maryland was one of four implementation project grantees nationwide awarded funds to implement an existing community plan to end hunger through this highly competitive Congressionally-created grant program. Other leading partners in the work include: the Governor’s Office for Children, Maryland Department of Human Resources (DHR), Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE), Maryland Food Bank, Catholic Charities of Baltimore, and SHARE Food Network/Catholic Charities of Washington.
How Maryland Hunger Solutions is Helping to Create Hunger Free Communities
Through a dedicated nutrition associate staff position and extensive collaboration with community- and state-level partners, MDHS is employing a county-by-county approach to expanding the federal nutrition programs – pinpointing unique barriers, identifying the community and faith-based partners committed to ending hunger, and developing the most effective and sustainable model for program implementation in the county.
Maryland Hunger Solutions work focuses on two key areas:
- Increasing access to and information regarding the Food Supplement Program. Maryland Hunger Solutions is collaborating with DHR to expand access to the Food Supplement Program (known federally as SNAP and formerly called Food Stamps). Through training and technical assistance, Maryland Hunger Solutions is engaging the local community in the promotion and use of SAIL, the online benefits application system in Maryland. In conjunction with DHR, Maryland Hunger Solutions is working with local offices, through quarterly site visits in all counties, to ensure proper training and implementation of policies and procedures enacted by the State to expand access to the Food Supplement Program. These local office visits also help Maryland Hunger Solutions work with local staff to cross-promote resources for which their clients may be eligible but not yet aware of or participating in, such as WIC and school meals.
- Increasing participation in school and out-of-school time nutrition programs. Maryland Hunger Solutions is working to address and overcome the barriers that prevent children from participating in these important programs, which include school lunch and breakfast, as well as afterschool and summer meal programs. For example:
In school breakfast, Maryland Hunger Solutions is working closely with MSDE and local school systems to promote strategies that increase participation, such as serving school breakfast in the classroom or other convenient locations that remove barriers, such as stigma and transportation issues, which can prevent children from participating in school meals.
To help more children access the meals provided by afterschool and summer meal programs, Maryland Hunger Solutions conducts intensive outreach in the counties to local school systems, Community Action Centers, Local Management Boards, Boys and Girls Clubs, YMCAs, community and faith-based organizations, helping them to build sustainable programs and overcome common barriers. Key tools include our user-friendly guides to both the Afterschool and Summer Meals Programs, which have been effective tools to train organizations that could operate the programs, as well as to open a conversation about identifying and leveraging available resources in each county. We also convene Summer Meals Workgroups in each county, which will engage stakeholders at all levels and address the unique challenges to expanding the program in their communities.