The School Nutrition Foundation—the School Nutrition Association’s philanthropic sibling—and Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign have partnered to launch an initiative called Schools as Nutrition Hubs.
“No Kid Hungry really sees schools as a critical place in the fight against childhood hunger,” says Laura Hatch, director of national partnerships for No Kid Hungry. “Schools are really a no-brainer because they have the infrastructure, they have the experience, it’s a trusted place for families. And being able to maximize their programs and maximize the federal reimbursements, it’s a really nice business strategy for the school nutrition department.”
Diane Pratt-Heavner, director of media relations for SNA, says the Schools as Nutrition Hubs initiative has one clear goal: “To get operators to be equipped and see their program as the first place to go in terms of making sure that kids’ nutritional needs are met, not just for school breakfast and lunch, but throughout the year, 24/7.” For example, if a community organization is offering summer programming for children and would like to add a meal, the school district should be the first choice to source those meals.
The initiative began in spring 2016. With intel gathered from interviews with K-12 operators around the country, No Kid Hungry and SNA released two documents—a full-length report and a brief—in November 2016.
“We’re taking all of these best practices and working on phase two of the process: developing a training program to implement at the state level to train more directors around the strategy and give them tangible tools to become a nutrition hub,” Hatch says. “We’re still shaping [the format], however I see this as a peer-to-peer training design.” At the SNA’s Annual National Conference in July, No Kid Hungry hosted a session to solicit feedback on the resources and tools currently under development. “We are hoping to have a fully put-together training package by early 2018,” Hatch says.
This shift to the hub mindset has already begun in many districts around the country. At Floyd County Schools, Donna Carver recently changed her title from school nutrition director to child nutrition director. “That may not seem like a big shift, but it’s enough of a shift. We are saying to our community, ‘We are here for your children, we are here for not just our building.’ It’s a subtle but huge distinction. They’re still our kids whether or not they’re in our building.”