Updated: May 26, 2021
In May 2017 more than 3,265 children in Derby Public Schools qualified for free or reduced price meals in the National School Lunch Program, yet only 190 children participated in the Summer Food Service Program each day at Derby Middle School. With the goal of increasing the number of children participating in the 2018 Summer Lunch Program, the Derby Community Foundation awarded a $2,500 grant to provide free adult meals during the program.
By reaching out and providing a free meal to adult care givers, the intent was that more children would participate in the lunch program and care givers would be provided not only the well balanced meal that they need but also all of the social benefits of family and communal dining. The response from Derby families exceeded expectations and was so successful that the initial grant funds were spent in the first 11 days of the 39 day program.
When it became apparent that the initial grant from the DCF was only going to last for 11 days as opposed to 39, community fundraising resulted in donations of $2,500 from Jean Garinger-American Family Insurance Agency, $1,000 from Derby Community Family Services, $852 from Woodlawn United Methodist Church, and $100 from the Derby Model A Club.
Family meals are important for the personal and social well-being of children and teenagers and are associated with higher self esteem, lower rates of obesity, decreased risk of substance use and delinquency, heightened personal and social wellbeing and academic performance. Family meals provide an opportunity to role model healthy eating and when that well balanced meal, meeting federal guidelines is already provided, the hardest part is already done for parents.
Providing adult meals for free was a key to the overwhelming success of the 2018 Summer Food Service Program in Derby. It removed the stigma associated with child nutrition programs and allowed the entire community to participate equally. The more adults who ate lunch the more children who ate lunch.
In early June of 2018, the DCF was alerted by the Derby DASH dispatcher at the Derby Senior Center about a need to provide ride scholarships to about 12 children who had no transportation to the Summer Food Service Program. Through a DCF donor advised fund, a challenge grant of $750 was made and the Derby Rotary Club met the challenge by contributing a matching $750 which funded transportation to the lunch program for the children in need.
The DCF is proud to have “inspired vision and generosity” as part of this collaborative effort to enrich the quality of life in the Derby area.