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D.C. Awarded $30K Grant to Support the Summer Meals Program

dc.gov | 5/2/2014, 5:58 p.m.
Courtesy of dcps.dc.gov

The DC Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR), in partnership with the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA), has received a $30,000 grant, which will support the DC Free Summer Meals Program by helping to expand the numbers of District youth up to 18 years old who have access to free, healthy meals during summer.

The gift is part of a $2.3 million grant NRPA received from the Wal-Mmart Foundation to support out-of-school time programs in 50 park and recreation agencies. DPR will also receive in-kind training materials worth $10,000. This is the third year DPR has applied for, and the third year it has been awarded, this grant.

For the past seven years in a row, the DC Free Summer Meals Program received the distinction of being named the number one program in the country by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), for reaching more than 85 percent of eligible children in its boundaries.

DPR is the largest sponsor of the USDA's Free Summer Meals Program in the District, hosting more than 200 feeding sites annually and serving approximately 27,000 meals a day during summer. Included in the DC Free Summer Meals Program are 53 recreation centers and well over 150 unaffiliated sites including schools, libraries, churches, daycare facilities, public and private summer programs, and Summer Youth Employment Programs. Through DPR, the District has managed the program for more than 15 years; and DPR also sponsors the USDA's Child and Adult Care Food Program's After School Supper Program, which offers nutritious meals to young children, older adults and the chronically disabled.

"The NRPA grant is our megaphone to reach and inform the parents of these children that they do not need to go hungry," said DPR Interim Director Sharia Shanklin, Ed.D. "They have access to salads, fruits, lean proteins and a variety of foods. This grant will help us increase awareness that the meals are available, and that they can be part of the program throughout the summer."

Estimates put the number of food hardships in the District of Columbia at 20.8 percent. During the summer, the DC Free Summer Meals Program is by far the primary resource for youth, 18 and under, to receive daily sustenance because these children may not have access to quality food to help them thrive. This makes DPR's work during out-of-school times that much more critical.

DPR will use the grant to increase its outreach mechanisms to the youth and their parents to increase participation in the program; expand the nutritional education and wellness programming that has engaged and informed positive fitness behaviors and healthy food choices for children and their parents; and help subsidize meal costs associated with the program. As a grantee, DPR will receive nutritional literacy materials from the USDA's afterschool and summer feeding programs to teach life-long healthy habits for the District's youth.

Also, the grant supports NRPA’s new campaign — Commit to Health — which encourages the implementation and evaluation of Healthy Eating, Physical Activity (HEPA) standards in park and recreation sites across the country. NRPA’s goal is to have at least 2,000 participating sites in five years.

“Across the country, community parks and recreation are a vital health resource for all people,” said Barbara Tulipane, president and CEO of NRPA.“This generous grant will allow park and recreation agencies to expand the critical work they do to improve quality of life and foster life-long healthy habits among the youth in their communities.”