Effective Strategies to Alleviate Childhood Hunger Described in New Report

A new report from the U.S. Conference of Mayors and the Sodexo Foundation takes an in-depth look at efforts to curb childhood huger that could potentially be scaled up and used in cities across the country.  The publication, “Strategies to Combat Childhood Hunger in Four US Cities,”(pdf) looked at initiatives in Boston, New Haven, San Francisco, and Washington, DC. Overall, the report identified that successful city-wide anti-hunger efforts comprise seven components:

  • Teaching healthy behaviors at school
  • Offering summer food programs for school children
  • Creating public/private/non-profit partnerships, including policy councils, to coordinate city-wide efforts
  • Increasing access to healthy and affordable food, and encouraging involvement through local garden and farm programs
  • Supporting local food banks
  • Implementing assistance programs for School Breakfast, After School Snack, and Summer Food Service Programs
  • Adopting and advocating anti-hunger legislation and policies

According to the report, “Boston’s case study illustrates the power of leadership in bringing public and private agencies into a collaborative and holistic approach to combating childhood hunger, and the roles played by these agencies. . . . Underlying Boston’s effort are the many years of leadership in anti-hunger programming provided by Mayor Thomas M. Menino and the coordinating role of the Food Policy Council which he has established.” Urban agriculture, participation in federal food programs, and increased nutritional value in food served in Boston Public Schools have all played a role in diminishing child hunger in Boston.

For more information:

Study Shows School Lunch Programs May Help Break Poverty Cycle

A new study published online in the journal Pediatrics found that food insecurity is associated with poor academic achievement in adolescents. However, when these adolescents received school-based food supplementation programs (like free and reduced-price lunch), they performed the same as their peers who were not living in food-insecure households. The authors write that their results suggest that “school food assistant or some aspect of it may well help adolescents thrive during the secondary school years and may be a part of a successful poverty-reduction strategy.”

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, 14.7% of households were food insecure at least some time during 2009–the highest recorded  rate of food insecurity since 1995 when the first national food security survey was conducted.

For more information:

Massachusetts Among Top States Distributing Education Funding Fairly, Study Says

To determine if school funding reaches the students who need it the most, a new study from the Education Law Center, “Is School Funding Fair? A National Report Card,” ranked all 50 states on their education finance systems and school funding fairness. The study examined  four separate but interrelated “fairness indicators”–funding level, funding distribution, state fiscal effort, and public school coverage.

Scoring high in all four indicators, Massachusetts received a grade of B. The study reports that Massachusetts has a mean actual state and local revenue per pupil of $14,355, which is higher than the national average. Five other states also ranked highly across all categories: Connecticut, Iowa, New Jersey, Vermont, and Wyoming.

For more information:

City Connects Highly Rated Among i3 Proposals

The U.S. Department of Education announced the applicants for the “Investing in Innovation,” or i3, grants who achieved high ratings but were not funded. We were pleased to learn that City Connects was the next-highest-rated proposal (after the awardees) in our category of validation grants for growing programs with evidence of success–see a list of proposals and their scores here. Of the 1,700 applicants, 49 were awarded grants, 15 of those in the validation category.

In an announcement, the Department of Education said it is planning to convene a summit for the promising applicants who were highly rated but not funded “in order to continue to support innovation and evidence based practice . . . and highlight these high quality programs at a forum at which potential funding partners may support efforts that the department is unable to directly support at this time.”

The administration has requested an additional $500 million in funding to continue the i3 program in FY 2011.

For more information:

  • Visit the data.ed.gov i3 site to learn more about the  i3 proposals
  • See a summary of the City Connects i3 proposal here
  • See the 49 funded projects receiving i3 grants here
  • Follow the U.S. Department of Education on Twitter @USEDgov

Three Massachusetts Groups Awarded “Promise Neighborhood” Planning Grants

The U.S. Department of Education yesterday awarded 21 “Promise Neighborhood” planning grants to nonprofit organizations and universities across the country, three of which are based in Massachusetts. The one-year grants of up to $500,000 are designed to help these groups create plans to provide comprehensive “cradle to career” services for children.

“Communities across the country recognize that education is the one true path out of poverty,” said Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. “These Promise Neighborhoods applicants are committed to putting schools at the center of their work to provide comprehensive services for young children and students.”

The Massachusetts winners are Community Day Care Center of Lawrence, Inc. in Lawrence, the United Way of Central Massachusetts in Worcester, and the Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative in Boston.

As reported in the Boston Globe, “the $500,000 grant to the Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative, a community-based organization, represents a major milestone in replicating the Harlem Children’s Zone locally. For years, different groups of city leaders, philanthropists, and community activists have toured the Harlem program, returning each time to Boston energized, but unable to sustain the momentum.”

One of City Connects’ schools, Orchard Gardens, is located in Dudley Street’s target neighborhood of Roxbury, which is also part of Boston Mayor Tom Menino’sCircle of Promise,” a 5-square-mile area in where the Mayor and Boston Public Schools have been trying to set up a coalition to provide wraparound services for children. Dudley Street will partner with the City of Boston, nonprofit groups, philanthropists, after-school providers, religious leaders, and universities to advance this agenda.

Next year, the President has requested $210 million in his budget, including $200 million to support implementation of Promise Neighborhood projects and $10 million for planning grants for new communities.

For more information:

Video: TED talk, “The Child-driven Education”

From TED: Education scientist Sugata Mitra tackles one of the greatest problems of education — the best teachers and schools don’t exist where they’re needed most. In a series of real-life experiments from New Delhi to South Africa to Italy, he gave kids self-supervised access to the web and saw results that could revolutionize how we think about teaching.

2010 Statewide Test Scores Released

Yesterday, Governor Patrick released the 2010 school and district MCAS results and congratulated 187 newly-named “Commendation Schools” for their progress in closing achievement gaps and improving academic achievement. We are very excited that two of those schools, the Eliot and the Gardner, are City Connects schools!

“There are so many great success stories in schools across this Commonwealth because of the efforts of administrators, teachers, students, and parents who are united and committed to making every effort to ensure that every child that walks through the door receives a high quality education,” said Governor Patrick.

For more information:

Reducing Student Poverty

The Center for American Progress released a report this week, Reducing Student Poverty in the Classroom, that acknowledges families living in poverty often face barriers when it comes to accessing government services or programs. These include:

  • Lack of outreach and accessible information about the programs
  • Transportation challenges of visiting and signing up for these programs at different (and sometimes remote) locations
  • Burdensome application requirements, such as unnecessary repeat visits to program offices and unnecessary document requests
  • The stigma associated with applying for programs

These barriers are why our City Connects School Site Coordinators fill such a crucial role. Daily, they are working with families to alleviate these obstacles and help them access services to promote the healthy development of their children. In academic year 2008-09, our School Site Coordinators connected 3,000 Boston Public School students to 11,365 services.

Source: City Connects annual report, 2008-09

The report’s authors write, “Schools are ideal locations because they have unparalleled access to poor students and their families—they are located in the neighborhoods in which families live, are recognized and familiar community institutions, and have established relationships with low-income students and their families.”

Based on the access and trust schools have, the authors created a set of recommendations for Congress to help address poverty:

  • Attach to an appropriations bill (or other vehicle) a requirement that relevant federal administrative agencies produce a report to Congress that outlines a plan for expanding the use of central connection points and simplifying and consolidating public benefit application requirements. These efforts should include advancing school-based antipoverty strategies.
  • The White House Domestic Policy Council and the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships get involved in efforts to develop a plan and take a leadership role to help spur Congress to action.
  • Invest in community school models and create a new innovation fund designed to explore the potential benefits of delivering public benefits through schools.
  • State and local governments establish inter-agency committees to replicate and expand upon existing school-based antipoverty models and maintain new modes of providing services through schools.

For more information:

%d bloggers like this: