Health & Environment
With Rochester ranked as the 11th worst city in the country for child poverty, federally subsidized lunches and breakfasts fill a critical health need during the school year. Overall, 86% of city school children qualify for free or reduced lunch, with some schools reporting 98%. But during the summer, the number of children participating in meal programs drops significantly.
That’s changing, thanks to an extraordinary bequest by the late Mary Elizabeth Conlon and an innovative community service provider, Foodlink—brought together by the Community Foundation.
In 2004, when we learned of Miss Conlon's remarkable $2.8 million gift to benefit food and shelter for children, we convened people in the community who work to address child hunger. Discussions among service providers and social service workers identified effective programs and gaps where new funding could help. What rose to the top was a need for more subsidized meals during school vacations, as well as for systemic analysis and planning. Foodlink offered to take on a number of these issues, so the Foundation invested $70,000 from the Conlon Fund in 2005 and has continued to fund Foodlink since.
As a result, Foodlink became the coordinator of many summer meals sites in the City of Rochester. It also operates 41 after-school sites through a program called Kids Café, where students get a hot meal as well as homework help, crafts, athletics, or other activities. The number of after-school meals served has grown to more than 150,000 per year.
Based on research, Foodlink expanded outreach and addressed barriers to participation in summer and after-school food programs. They attracted children to services that keep them safe and engaged, helped them develop a taste for nutritious foods, improved overall health, and increased their ability to learn.
We continue to fund this outstanding service provider.
"The need for improved child nutrition has never been more important, considering the national epidemic of childhood afflictions such as obesity, diabetes, and asthma." - Foodlink
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