Children’s Hunger Alliance and partners update community on project to address childhood hunger in six Southeast Ohio counties

June 19, 2017

Southeastern Ohio’s food-insecure children were the focus of a luncheon presentation held by Children’s Hunger Alliance, a statewide non-profit organization dedicated to ending childhood hunger in Ohio. The non-profit unveiled initial maps created by Muskingum Valley ESC with support from Ohio University’s Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs as part of a child nutrition asset mapping project led by Children’s Hunger Alliance and funded by the Walmart Foundation.

The mapping project, which will be completed by the end of the summer, will encompass more than 1,000 sites, and include data about more than 56,000 students from 36 school districts as well as pre-school age populations across the project’s six-county target area – Jackson, Pike, Vinton, Ross, Scioto and Lawrence counties. The project’s goal is to identify where gaps occur in connecting food-insecure children with the healthy meals they need to grow and thrive, and potential partners who can help fill those gaps.

“We are eager to collaborate with community partners to provide the healthy meals that so many children are lacking,” said Debra Parmer, Senior Vice President of Strategy, Compliance and Government Affairs for Children’s Hunger Alliance. “Yet before we can address hunger, we need to understand where gaps exist and create a sustainable action plan that improves access to nutritious meals for children who need it most.”

Muskingum Valley ESC demonstrated Vinton County maps showing high-need areas with current and potential summer and afterschool meal sites, and their proximity to at-risk children. The six-county asset maps, scheduled for completion this summer, will enable Children’s Hunger Alliance and community partners to address childhood hunger in a strategic manner, through partnerships with local school districts and community organizations such as recreation centers, libraries and churches.

“Muskingum Valley ESC has been proud to be a lead partner on this unique and complex project, which is truly one of a kind” explained Mike Fuller, Ph.D., Director of the Center for Innovation and Data Services, MVESC. “We are collecting data and conducting analysis to help Children’s Hunger Alliance distribute its resources in the six county target area in the most efficient way possible."

Children’s Hunger Alliance will utilize the maps to work together with community partners to help provide free meals to kids from birth through age 18. Children’s Hunger Alliance will help partners leverage the USDA’s child nutrition programs, administered by the Ohio Department of Education, to offset the costs of providing food to at-risk youth and create long-term solutions to childhood hunger. In addition, the non-profit will use the maps to identify gaps that can be supported potentially by private funding to ensure more children can access healthy meals.

During the luncheon two community organizations, RSVP of the Ohio Valley and TLC Ministries, were awarded grants by Children’s Hunger Alliance to help expand their summer meal programs. RSVP of the Ohio Valley received $2,000 to support summer meals for children in Jackson, Gallia, Pike and Scioto counties through 20 sites. TLC Ministries will use their $5,000 grant to purchase a new convection oven and warming cabinets so they can prepare hot meals for the 750 kids they will serve each day this summer. TLC Ministries provides breakfast, lunch and snacks to children at 30 sites in Jackson, Gallia and Vinton counties – and nine of the locations will be provided with hot meals. Last summer TLC Ministries served 20,600 free meals to children in the community.

“We are grateful to Children's Hunger Alliance for caring about hungry kids and helping TLC Ministries provide meals to children who so desperately need them,” said Terry Witt, Director of TLC Ministries. “We are excited to be able to purchase a convection oven and warming cabinet making it possible to provide so many hot meals at one time. Thank you again for recognizing the work we do and supporting us in such a valuable way.”

Across the state, just 10 percent of children who receive free or reduced lunches during the school year are accessing summer meals. That number may be even higher in rural counties where more than 25 percent of children live in food-insecure households and may not have the transportation necessary to connect them to summer meal programs.

This year, Children’s Hunger Alliance awarded $60,000 in grants funded by the Walmart Foundation to help partners expand summer meal access or begin serving summer meals to food-insecure children.