Community Engagement through Summer Feeding Programs

Fontana, CA | June 2016 | By Jamie Bumia

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Collaboration is key when working in any position, but it’s especially important in the world of community services. Over the last year, the City of Fontana and the Fontana Unified School District has done a tremendous job of creating opportunities for all stakeholders in our community through collaboration. One of the greatest collaborative successes is being able to provide summer meals to our youth (through the Summer Food Service Program) while being able to create and provide recreational opportunities that unite parties together.

The Let’s Move Outside (LMO) program was created to support and work in conjunction with the SFSP provided by the Nutrition Services Division of Fontana Unified School District. The LMO project had only one goal in mind-- to provide a fun, engaging, and recreational environment for our youth to get moving outside and play with youth from their own communities. Combining the LMO program with our Summer Food Service Program sites provided a great opportunity to engage youth, after all the saying goes, “if you want to get people together- food will bring them together”. Several locations like our community centers, parks, and designated food distribution sites provided meals and snacks to youth who were 18 years and younger.

The Let’s Move Outside (LMO) program at Veteran’s Park was incredibly successful throughout the Summer with regard to youth engagement, meal and program efficiency, and increased family involvement. The staff at Veteran’s Park were very proud of their program at that site because they were able to create a community within the larger community of Fontana. An average of 60 participants from the neighborhood came to play outside, eat healthy snacks, and create lifelong memories each day. Our staff members, who were educated on utilizing the SPARK curriculum, taught valuable healthy eating lessons as well as teaching the importance of being physically active. The summer ended on a high note, with the staff creating an awards ceremony to recognize participants. A few of the awards were: The Very Hungry Caterpillar, given to the participant who finished all of his/her food daily; The Fitness Expert, the participant who moved the most for the majority of the program; and The Mommy Award, the mother who supported her child by bringing them and watching them while they participated in our program. Let’s Move Outside was very successful this summer and we hope to be able to continue on such a high note for years to come.

The Let’s Move Outside (LMO) program would not have been as successful as it was without the collaborative efforts from all parties. Working with other partners we were able to increase the number of healthy meals served to members of our community who absolutely needed it during the off- track months of schooling. Our goal was to get students out and moving with their peers instead of potentially at home, alone in front of a television or gaming system set. It was rewarding for our staff to see the same kids returning with friends in tow to participate in our games and activities. Working closely with Nutrition Services has been a great benefit to our community because we were able to provide a healthy snack that was USDA compliant and tasty paired with the recreational opportunities.