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Best Practices: Special Populations

Resource type
Training and Outreach

This section describes the successes sponsors have had in meeting the unique needs of children and attracting them to their summer meal sites.

Orange County Community Action Agency
Orlando, Florida

As part of an on-going Orange County effort to expand services to a diverse community, the Orange County Community Action Agency established a goal to increase access to the SFSP for children of the Haitian community.

The Agency collaborated with several Haitian community and faith-based organizations, local Boys and Girls Clubs, schools, sheriff’s department, the Florida State Health Department, and other groups to develop strategies for meeting the unmet need of the Orange County Haitian community. With this unique combination of partners, several strategies were used, including:

  • Distribution of flyers in Creole and French to increase awareness of the SFSP,
  • Citizens of Haitian ancestry were hired to operate and supervise the SFSP feeding sites,
  • Presentations were made to Haitian church congregations with the help of Haitian staff interpreters,
  • Yard signs were distributed to advertise the location of feeding sites, and
  • SFSP materials were translated for participating site’s staff, as well as participating children.

Having the ability to hire staff knowledgeable about the cultural and other socio-economic issues greatly impacted the targeted population, making the task of serving Haitian community much easier. through partnering with other agencies and organizations, the Agency was able to increase the number of sites serving children of predominantly Haitian ancestry and heightened the awareness on the benefits of the SFSP to the Haitian community.

Contact: Doris Graham, Community Manager
Phone: 407-836-8920

Addison Central School District
Cameron, New York

By moving the meal service sites to a nearby trailer park, the Addison Central School District was able to overcome the transportation barrier that prevents so many rural children from participating in SFSP. The trailer park was an ideal location because the majority of families qualified for free and reduced price school meals. The school district enlisted parents as volunteers and included them in nutrition education and other enrichment activities.

Contact: Christine Wallace
Phone: 607-359-2241 x730

Garrett County Health Department
Mt. Lake Park, Maryland

Kudos to the Garrett County Health Department for believing it could! Until 1999, the children of this rural, impoverished community did not have access to Summer meals. In the past, public and private groups had discussed the need for the program, but no agency felt capable of sponsoring it. Believing that healthy behaviors are caught not taught, the Department’s nutritionists, health educators, and outreach staff identified the need to work with both children and their families to teach health education. To achieve this, it combined the funding sources from other grant programs. It also sponsored "Serious Fun Day Camps" for three weeks, in three targeted regions, to maximize limited staff resources. Most of the children were able to walk to the camps which were located in town parks. Children were taught nutrition and healthy behaviors while enjoying Summer meals. They often applied what they learned to real life by preparing their own lunches and snacks!

Contact: Ann Sherrard
Phone: 301-334-8122

Kids on Campus at Ohio University
Athens, Ohio

A challenge facing this rural Summer Program was finding the most efficient way to get meals to the kids. The Kids on Campus program at Ohio University has been very effective in overcoming this barrier, as children come to a centrally located feeding site. The program encouraged children, and their parents, to work towards building better a future for themselves. through partnerships with area organizations and facilities, Kids on Campus achieved success. It worked with five school districts, Hocking College, local businesses, and parents in Athens County to provide an out-of-school enrichment and nutrition program with educational resources.

Contact: Ann Teske
Phone: 740-593-9335

Adams Friendship Area Schools
Friendship, Wisconsin

The school district donated picnic tables and cars to deliver hot meals to sites located in mobile home parks and other rural feeding sites. Special thermo containers kept the meals warm during the delivery process. The school also gained support for the program from the District Administrator. The Administrator was invited and visited feeding sites to understand on a first-hand basis the need for such an important feeding program in the community.

Contact: Shirley Horner
Phone: 608-339-3218

Society of St. Vincent de Paul
San Antonio, Texas

In its first year as a SFSP sponsor in 1999, the Society of St. Vincent De Paul's Summer Program achieved a great deal. Recognizing a need to provide meal service to homeless youth in the city, the sponsor partnered with a city shelter and a drop-in center that serves homeless individuals. One barrier the sponsor overcame was the issue of providing formula for infants. By supplying two types of infant formula, the mothers in the shelters were able to reserve their short supply of WIC formula for later use. The sponsor believed in the need for the Summer Program saying that: "Many children in San Antonio would not have had the opportunity to eat at least two meals each day this summer if it were not for the Society of St. Vincent's SFSP. Because of the Summer Program, there were fewer homeless children and youth to go hungry in the downtown streets of San Antonio." The sponsor is currently making plans to participate as an emergency shelter under the Child and Adult Care Food Program.

Contact: Mary M. Armstrong
Phone: 210-225-7837

Hazel Park High School
Hazel Park, Michigan

As part of a cooperative agreement with the Special Education Department, the Hazel Park Food Service Department employed teens with disabilities to assist with the preparation and service of Summer meals. The outcome of this partnership was trifold: 1) it met the district’s requirements that students with disabilities complete 800 hours of employment credits in order to graduate; 2) it allowed students to gain valuable work experience that will assist them in obtaining full-time employment in the future; and, 3) the teens prepared delicious meals for the site and had the opportunity to eat the "fruits of their labor". Obviously, the program created a win-win situation for everyone! Parents of the disabled teens reported that their jobs were the first thing their kids talked about when they went to sleep at night and when they woke-up in the morning.

Contact: Mary Anne Dixon
Phone: 248-544-5203

Putnam County Public Schools
Palatka, Florida

Typically migrant parents do not have access to transportation, work long hours (10 to 12 hours a day), and have chronic health problems. In an environment where the parents spend most of day away from home, the Putnam County Public School's Summer Program provided structured activities and nutritious meals to the children of these workers. Transportation to the lunch site was provided by the Putnam County School District Migrant Education Program. Each day the children were encouraged to eat all of their lunches and were challenged to try new foods. Success of the Putnam County Summer Program was demonstrated by the 95 percent attendance rate and the attitude of the children. Both Parents and children looked forward to next year's Summer Program.

Contact: Karen Lee Basen
Phone: 904-329-0524

White Plains Public Schools
White Plains, New York

White Plains makes it a priority to meet the nutritional requirements of children with special health care needs and increase their knowledge of nutrition. In 1999, the school sponsored a day camp, the Jimmy Vejar Day Camp, that served children with cerebral palsy, mental retardation, behavioral disorders, and learning disabilities. In an effort to accommodate the special dietary and physical needs of these children, the camp worked with the White Plains Food and Nutrition Program to develop "special menus". These menus included soft textured and canned fruits and vegetables because of the chewing difficulties that so many children with special needs experience. The menus also included a lot of finger foods that allowed the children to feed themselves which provided a sense of accomplishment for them. Ongoing evaluations were used to make constant improvements to the meals. Camp staff also received training on how to best meet the special needs of these campers.

Contact: Stacey Falcone
Phone: 914-422-2224

Brockton Boys and Girls Club
Brockton, Massachusetts

Every summer, the Boys and Girls Club of Brockton offers educational and recreational activities for ethnically diverse and underprivileged kids at five playground sites throughout the city. In 1998, the program served African American, Hispanic, Caucasian, Cape Verdean, Haitian, and Asian children. The high attendance rates at Brockton Summer feeding sites were a major indicator of the overall success of the program. In fact, the program increased its participation and all sites operated at full capacity all summer long. Brockton's SFSP offered swimming, field trips, visits to performances at the local high school, and art activities at its feeding sites. Children were also educated on issues like HIV and drug and alcohol prevention by peer leaders.

Contact: Stephanie Sylvain
Phone: 508-584-5209;

Parks Recreation Department and Public Schools of Collier County
Naples, Florida

In 1998, the Collier County Public School System partnered with the Collier County Parks; Recreation Department to provide migrant children of Immokalee with Summer meals. During the farming season, the community swells from 19,000 to about 38,000 people of Hispanic, Haitian, Native American, and African American ethnicity. The Parks and Recreation Department started the Summer Program after seeing the low number of children who were not eating breakfast, despite the high percentage (over 90 percent) of families that were eligible for free or reduced-price meals. To improve service, research was conducted in on how to best meet the needs of these children. The program relied on the support of the community, including the media and local businesses. Success was demonstrated through the increasing participation levels (41 percent).

Contact: Sheila Sheridan
Phone: 941-353-0404

Manson School District
Manson, Washington

Most of the children who participate in Manson's Summer Program are from agricultural families. In 1998, barriers to participating in the Summer Program included poor access to children, an inability to transport food, and staff shortages. through a partnership between the District and the Private Industry Council, the program overcame these barriers and sponsored three sites in the area. Because of the Summer Program, children living in Manson had a better chance of learning and living healthier. Activities offered at the feeding sites included: art projects with older children, literacy programs, and nutrition and health education.

Contact: Susan Stroscheim
Phone: 509-687-9502

New Madrid County Health Department
Jefferson City, Missouri

The staff at the New Madrid County Health Department are dedicated to making sure the children living in the community are healthy. In fact, in 1998, the Department served 145,000 meals to the children of Jefferson City. The success of serving this rural population rested in the grass-root outreach efforts of its staff. Information networking within the predominantly African American community helped to build trust among its members. The program grew through partnerships with local Head Start Centers, County Health Center WIC Programs, School Districts and the Delta Economic Opportunity Corporation. These partnerships gave the community a sense of ownership and pride in the Summer Program as people felt an attachment to the feeding site(s).

Contact: Sue Swinger
Phone: 573-748-5541

North Central West Virginia Community Action
Kingwood, West Virginia

One of the greatest barriers facing the Kingwood Summer Program was the communication barrier that existed between community members. In 1998, Volunteers of the Shepherd Tent Ministry worked hard to break down these barriers and establish working relationships. To do this, it recruited the participation of all community members. The result was an increase in children participating in the Program. Activities such as reading, writing, games, and nutrition education were offered through the program to provide children with enrichment activities and draw them to the feeding sites.

Contact: Don Reed
Phone: 304-329-1028

South San Antonio Independent School District
San Antonio, Texas

Because of a partnership in 1998 between the South San Antonio Independent School District and the San Antonio Metropolitan Ministry, the city's homeless children received hot meals for free, five days a week during the summer. Approximately 73 children who would have otherwise gone hungry, received breakfast, lunch, and snacks. The food brought children together and allowed them to engage in educational and enrichment activities for the rest of the day.

Contact: Barbara Zachary
Phone: 210-977-7525

Page updated: July 08, 2024