We are excited to announce our 6th 2023 Spring Grant Recipient!
Thanks to our generous Legacy Giving Circle donor community, Every Meal is receiving a $28,900 grant towards their weekend meal program.
Initiative Location: Roseville, Minnesota
Initiative Cause Area: Food Insecurity
UN Sustainable Development Goal: 02 Zero Hunger
Initiative Description: Every Meal is on a mission to fight child hunger. Over 300,000 children in Minnesota don’t have access to the nutrition they need to learn and grow. We are a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization focused on filling the food gaps children face, especially on weekends, when they’re not able to access school meal programs. Through our Weekend Meal Program, we provide children and families experiencing food insecurity with good food that is nutritious, delicious, and relevant.
We are what is typically known as a “backpack program,” but we are anything but typical. Every Meal is a mobile delivery solution, getting food to kids right where they are – at school. And our culturally and situationally relevant food bags make us one of the most unique programs in the country.
In 2010, we started helping 27 kindergartners at one school. Today, Every Meal’s Weekend Meal Program serves over 11,000 children in over 400 public, private, and parochial schools across more than 40 school districts in Minnesota. Every week, our broad volunteer network is out in force, placing a 4-5 pound bag of food directly into the backpacks of enrolled children – ensuring they have meals for the weekend.
Because we fill the gaps where there are no government-supported programs, over 99% of our funding comes directly from the community. Through our growing network of community and school partners, we are making a significant impact on child hunger in Minnesota and closer to our vision of ensuring every child gets every meal.
In many instances, philanthropic support for schools comes from their communities – local businesses, faith organizations, and people in the neighborhood. In some situations, however, the difficult financial situations faced by the kids and families are also reflected in the organizations and businesses in the surrounding neighborhood. In these times, Every Meal looks to our wider community to join in the effort. This grant application to the Legacy Collective is exactly that situation. Our request would be used specifically to support the Weekend Meal program for students in 15 schools in South Minneapolis zip codes 55406 and 55407 – the center of the George Floyd protests.
Currently, there are 358 students enrolled in Every Meal’s Weekend Meal Program across these 15 schools. It costs Every Meal $323 to provide one student with a weekend food bag for a school year, thus the cost to serve these 358 students who let us know that they didn’t have enough to eat on the weekends is $115,634 for the 22-23 school year. As we look to partnering with these 15 schools in the next school year, we respectfully ask the members of the Legacy Collective to grant us $28,900, or one-quarter of the cost to help these kids. We start the renewal process with schools in the summer, and receiving this grant would allow us to start planning for the 23- 24 school year with these 15 school partners.
Initiative Impact: The end of government initiatives (enhanced child tax credit and free school lunch for all students) coupled with rising prices for housing, food, and gas has had a significant impact on family finances, and Every Meal saw a 34% increase in students enrolling in our Weekend Meal Program. Funding from the Legacy Collective will have a direct and positive impact on hundreds of Minnesota kids and their families facing food insecurity by providing a critical basic need.
The Impact of Our Food
Every Meal does not exist simply to alleviate the physical sensation of hunger. We exist to provide children with the nutrition they need to learn and grow. Children facing food insecurity who start receiving Every Meal food support on the weekends improve socially, academically, behaviorally, and in their sense of self-worth. These improvements not only impact the children when they are young, but they also result in improved long-term academic, career, and social performance that increase children’s capabilities as they grow into adults.
In order to best serve children in our community, Every Meal provides food that meets three specific categories: Nutritious, Delicious, and Relevant.
Nutritious: All of our food bags are designed with the USDA MyPlate in mind and contain fruit, vegetable, grain, and protein items. Additionally, our staff dietitians are working to ensure our food bags align with current nutrition standards for children and youth as outlined by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and the National School Lunch and Breakfast Programs.
Delicious: We taste test all of the food we purchase for our meal bags to ensure it is food kids will actually eat. For each item we provide, we make sure it looks, smells, and tastes delicious.
Relevant: We offer five meal bag options tailored to various dietary preferences or situational needs for the children and families we serve. Our bag types include varieties for East African, Latino, and Southeast Asian dietary preferences. Another type contains low-preparation and ready-to-eat items for students who don’t have access to kitchens or who need to prepare their own meals. The final bag offers the widest variety of foods.
Because of the quantities needed, and in order to meet key nutrition standards, Every Meal purchases over 90% of the food that goes into our food bags. We are successfully navigating the supply chain challenges, and have been able to improve the types and varieties of the food we provide.
Every food bag includes a resource card that links families to recipes specific to the bag type, along with a survey where they can give feedback on the food provided. We use that feedback to continually adjust and improve on what goes into each bag. Every Meal has several key quantitative markers to measure our success. Every Meal tracks data including number of partnership schools, total children enrolled, number of bags distributed weekly, pounds of food distributed, and the meal equivalents of food distributed.
In addition to these tracked numbers, the impact of the program is assessed through surveys of school staff and participating families. For example, a recent survey revealed that a high percentage of respondents credited our program with making a positive impact on children. 93% of families reported their children were more prepared for school as a result of our program while 100% said their families were better supported. Schools reported
improvement as a result of our program in the following areas, followed by percentage of schools reporting improvement: academic performance (95%), self-esteem (92%), attendance (86%), behavior (91%), and attention in class (94%).
Our surveys also have several open-ended questions for respondents. These options provide a useful opportunity to gather stories and testimonials and provide a qualitative perspective on the impact of the Weekend Meal Program. Gaining this insight is very helpful as Every Meal strives to have our programs and processes be guided by the needs and perspectives of the families we serve-not on our perceptions about what we think youth and families in our community need.
In the past, we have used the open feedback provided to expand the options and types of items available in our food bags, ensuring that the food provided is culturally relevant to our community. It is also how we developed the food bag that includes items requiring little or no preparation. Families shared that food insecurity and housing insecurity families who might also face housing insecurity, or for kids whose caregivers work on weekends and need to prepare their own meals.
These are the anticipated impacts and outcomes we would expect for the South Minneapolis schools who would be supported by a grant from the Legacy Collective.
Initiative Sustainability: Every Meal is nearly 100% community funded. Every Meal has a multi-year strategic plan which guides our operations, development, and programs, toward our overall goal of fighting childhood hunger. We rely on the generosity of our donors to support the Weekend Meal Program – which is approximately 80 percent of our annual budget.
With the pandemic, Every Meal experienced rapid growth as many families found their finances upended and were looking for help. Thankfully, there were many in our community who shared in our mission, and we were able to increase fundraising to meet the need at that time. The continued impacts of the pandemic, effects of rising food, fuel and housing costs, along with the reduction in other support systems, Every Meal has seen the number of children needing help with food continue to increase.
Thankfully, Every Meal staff are creative, nimble, and responsive. We have already taken multiple steps to adjust and refocus in order to meet this increased need in our community. This includes shifting resources to focus specifically on our core Weekend Meal Program, and continually examining our budget to find every cost savings possible. Our Supply Chain team is working strategically with all our food partners to procure the food necessary to meet the need at prices that extend our budget. Our development and leadership teams are focused on retaining existing donors and engaging and stewarding new sources of funding to meet this need.
All of these efforts are working together to help Every Meal leverage our partnerships to continue to source, purchase, pack, and deliver nutritious food into the homes and bellies of children whose families are facing food insecurity.