The goal of Toledo’s Connecting Kids to Meals is simple yet profound: To give hot, nutritious meals to every hungry child in every neighborhood.
Since 2002, the nonprofit organization formerly called Feeding Lucas County Children has served more than 5 million meals to hungry kids in need. Connecting Kids to Meals partners with community locations where kids gather during the summer months and throughout the school year.
The Believe Academy in South Toledo started getting free snacks and meals for participants in the fall. Believe Academy Director Montarey Barbour said she was shocked to realize how many children were coming to the afterschool program hungry.
“Without Connecting Kids to Meals, a lot of them probably wouldn’t eat until the next school day,” said Ms. Barbour, adding fast food and convenience store snacks are far more common than nutritious meals among Believe Academy’s students.
“A lot of them eat junk,” she said. “That’s all their families can afford.”
The 2016/2017 Lucas County Community Health Assessment shows there definitely is a need for free children’s meal programs in Lucas County. Of parents of children ages 0-11 with annual incomes of less than $25,000, 21% reported that their children went to bed hungry at least one day a week because they did not have enough money for food, according to the assessment.
Estimates show 40% of Toledo’s children live in poverty and Connecting Kids to Meals provides about 500,000 nutritious meals to children every year.
Connecting Kids to Meals President Wendi Huntley is a member of the Healthy Lucas County coalition of community health improvement organization’s Executive Committee, which randomly surveys Lucas County residents of all ages every three years to get a snapshot of their health. Survey results are compiled into a community health assessment and used to help identify the health-related needs and concerns Lucas County residents have.
In late 2019, students in participating schools throughout Lucas County were surveyed as part of the 2019/2020 Lucas County Community Health Assessment. Parents of young children and adults will be surveyed in early 2020, and the assessment will be released in late 2020.
The community health assessment is used extensively for community planning, organizational planning and grant writing. In the last five years alone, Healthy Lucas County Executive Committee member organizations – including Connecting Kids to Meals – have received more than $20 million in grant funding through proposals that used community health assessment data.