Nonprofit Voice | Partnerships critical to fighting childhood hunger

With 28 percent of children in Georgia living in food insecure households, childhood hunger is a critical and complex issue.

 

Through its strategic partnerships, Quality Care for Children (QCC) has been able to leverage resources from its corporate, philanthropic, and programmatic partners to not only adhere to higher standards of meal nutrition for the free meals it provides to children, but also provide nutrition education and training to children and program staff.

As a sponsor of the USDA Summer Food Service Program, QCC supports 17 Atlanta-area summer camp “Fresh Bite” food programs. With the help of Open Hand, QCC will serve more than 42,000 meals and snacks to 1,000 children and youth each weekday this summer at these sites. QCC’s Summer Food Program and training programs are made possible through the generous support from organizations including the Atlanta Falcons Youth Foundation, Arby’s Foundation, Carter’s, Peach State Health Care, and Bright from the Start: Georgia Department of Early Learning. QCC is also a sponsor of the USDA Child Care Food Program and will serve an estimated 15,000 children nutritious meals at more than 850 child care programs throughout Georgia this year.

QCC recognizes, however, that serving nutritious meals alone will not solve childhood hunger.

The organization’s strategic partnerships make it possible to provide other opportunities to expose children to healthy foods that they would not have otherwise tried. On July 8th, QCC and Open Hand Atlanta partnered to host a “Nutrition Field Day” for the children enrolled in the Agape Youth & Family Center summer camps. Throughout the day, teams of kids along with volunteers from Carter’s participated in nutrition-themed challenges and tastings as well as Peach State Health Plan’s Mobile Market activity station. Activity themes included sugar content in drinks, balanced snack pairing, and the importance of whole grains.

The highlight of the day was a “Top Chef” style competition where teams prepared and pitched their dishes to a panel of judges that included: Kevin Gillespie, Atlanta chef and former Top Chef contestant; Mara Davis, radio personality and co-host of “Atlanta Eats”; Steven Carse, founder of King of Pops; Clare Schexnyder, founder of Oh Baby! Fitness; and Kayla Anderson, Open Hand Atlanta Director of Nutrition Services. Teams were judged based on their dish’s nutrition, presentation, and creativity.

Events such as this Field Day as well as state-wide nutrition cooking training classes that QCC offers to child care cooks, helps to develop healthy habits and care environments for young children. QCC Chief Executive Officer, Pam Tatum, explains that “People make all kinds of interesting assumptions about what kids will eat and won’t eat, though it’s all in our heads.”

It is not uncommon for children from programs participating in QCC’s Summer or Child Care Food Program to go home eating different foods than their families typically feed them. Tatum even went on to say that, “sometimes we hear from parents, ‘My child came home and wanted broccoli for dinner. We never serve broccoli. Now we’re eating broccoli.’”

Again, childhood hunger is a pressing and complex issue in Georgia. No one organization or program alone can solve childhood hunger and we need for the many stakeholders in this field to continue collaborating and leveraging resources to ensure that Georgia’s youngest learners are nurtured and reach their full potential.

Jeff Ader is Director of Marketing & Corporate Engagement for Quality Care for Children.

Photos by Shakeesha Semone Jeffries.

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