The Detroit Public Library (DPL), Forgotten Harvest, and the Chrysler Foundation have partnered to provide free nutritious snacks to school-aged children who attend after school reading programs at 20 DPL branches throughout the city, the library has announced. The snack packs—typically fruit, a drink, and a nutritious item such as yogurt—also are available to children on days when Detroit Public Schools are closed and during special DPL-sponsored programs. During the 2013–2014 school year, more than 2,000 snacks per week will be distributed, Forgotten Harvest estimates.
“This partnership enables DPL librarians to combat hunger in the city of Detroit for those most vulnerable, our children, through the distribution of healthy food, thereby enhancing their chances to benefit from the literacy programs provided by the Detroit Public Library,” says Patrice Merritt, executive director, Detroit Public Library Friends Foundation, in the announcement.
The idea for the program evolved after a series of unrelated meetings between representatives of the Chrysler Foundation, the Detroit Public Library, and Forgotten Harvest.
“When Patrice explained that children in their reading program often suffered from poor attention due to the lack of adequate nutrition, I knew there was an opportunity for the three organizations to work together and make a difference for children in Detroit,” says Brian Glowiak, vice president of the Chrysler Foundation, in the announcement. Glowiak had met with Susan Goodell, president and CEO of Forgotten Harvest, a week earlier to get an update on their operations.
Initially, the Chrysler Foundation provided Forgotten Harvest with a grant to source, prepare, and deliver nutritious lunches for the final sessions of the 2012 summer reading program. Following the successful pilot, the Foundation increased its support in 2013 to $74,000 in order to provide lunches for the summer reading program and snacks for the after school reading program.
In recent years, according to Merritt, participation in the summer reading program has been stagnant. However, due in part to the lunch program, the number of children participating increased in 2013 to 6,598—up 23 percent from 2012. And while the further impact on families has not been measured, Merritt says that the number of children accompanied by a parent or adult also has increased and that it’s not uncommon for them to take part in the food program too. In total, 11,000 lunches were served over a 10-week period this summer.
“It is difficult for children or adults, for that matter, to concentrate and learn when they are hungry,” notes Goodell in the announcement. “Our partnership with the Detroit Public Library and the Chrysler Foundation provides an ideal opportunity to provide nourishing food to hungry children, which ideally will enhance their chances to learn and grow.”
Adds Lurine Carter, coordinator of children’s services at DPL, in the announcement, “Our librarians see hunger daily in our branches and understand that an after school snack may be for some the last meal of the day.”