Shelf-Stable Meals in Southeastern Ohio

CHILDREN’S HUNGER ALLIANCE PROVIDES AFTERSCHOOL MEALS TO NEW LEXINGTON STUDENTS

Partnership with Muskingum Valley Educational Service Center evolves from pilot project with shelf-stable meals funded by the Walmart Foundation

COLUMBUS – December 5, 2017 – Children’s Hunger Alliance, a statewide nonprofit organization dedicated to ending childhood hunger in Ohio, today announced that it will continue to provide afterschool meals to New Lexington City School District students attending 21st Century Community Learning Centers offered in partnership with the Muskingum Valley Educations Service Center (MVESC). Nearly 1 in 4 children in Perry County live in food-insecure homes where access to healthy food is inconsistent. The meals help fill nutrition gaps for those children who may not have dinner available to them in the evenings.

“By the end of the school day, kids are just exhausted. Some of them eat lunch as early as 11 a.m. and by the time they attend the afterschool program at 2:45 p.m. they are run down and not very energetic,” explained Larissa Cline, MVESC 21st Century Assistant Program Director. “When we started giving them these meals they were very excited about them. They help students get re-energized and ready to focus on their homework and fun activities. We love this program and the kids and parents really appreciate it.”

Supported by a Walmart Foundation grant, Children’s Hunger Alliance last February piloted the use of shelf-stable meals to support students at New Lexington and Junction City elementary schools as well as New Lexington middle and high schools. In total, 13 schools in the southeast Ohio region received more than 17,500 shelf-stable meals. This school year, meal service continues for New Lexington students at four afterschool programs, where an average of 22 children are served daily at each location.

“Following a child nutrition statewide needs assessment in 2016, we realized that too many children in rural Ohio counties were not having their needs met because of geography challenges,” explained Judy Mobley. “Just because they live in less populated areas does not make the number of hungry children in southeastern Ohio any less crucial. We are committed to finding sustainable ways to provide nutritious meals to children who urgently need our help.”

In early 2017, Children’s Hunger Alliance began exploring the use of shelf-stable meals in southeastern Ohio counties where the organization currently did not have vendors available to deliver hot or cold afterschool meals on a daily basis. Shelf-stable meals provided by Children’s Hunger Alliance meet the nutrition standards required by the United States Department of Agriculture. The meals include a serving of protein, fruit, vegetable, grains and milk. Because the meals do not need to be refrigerated or heated before being served, they are an ideal solution for programs where vendors are unable to deliver hot meals in a timely manner, or those locations that do not have refrigeration available for cold meals. Shelf-stable meals also help eliminate waste in programs where attendance may fluctuate.

“When we initiated the meals the first day, the children had hummus, and many of them did not know what it was and they were not interested in trying it,” Cline said. “We had a discussion about trying new things and decided to make a game of it – where they would dare each other to try the hummus. One after another, students began to take a small bite and found that they liked it. The same happened with the bean dip we served.”

“I don’t think people realize how hungry some of the kids are in this area,” she continued. “To see kids get that excited about canned chicken salad and a box of raisins was pretty telling.”

The 21st Century Community Learning Centers serve both students and families by providing enrichment activities for students while also providing a safe place for students to stay while parents are at work. Services support student learning and development including tutoring, homework help, academic enrichment, clubs, family events and community service opportunities.

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