Build Regional Support
Regional support can significantly bolster your summer meals efforts. By collaborating with other local school districts, state agencies, and allied organizations, you consolidate resources and increase capacity to reach a broader audience with your program. Each member of a regional coalition brings unique perspectives that support summer meals expansion, participation, and impact within your region.
Tips for building and participating in regional coalitions:
Identify key partners. A robust summer meals program is one driven by complementary activities and supports that meet community needs. Cultivate relationships with regulatory agencies such as the USDA, state and county offices of education, local public health departments, and summer meals sponsors. Think creatively about additional organizations you can partner with to reach more families and add value to summer meals sites, such as health services, resources, and enrichment for families.
Host a meeting. After you have identified key partners, host a meeting. Consider serving a fresh piece of summer produce to get everyone engaged. Then, open a discussion by having each member share their top strength and challenge with reaching families over summer. Encourage cooperation by developing targets, such as increasing awareness, participation, or local procurement in summer meals programs. Developing a shared vision can create shared commitment.
Start planning early. Early planning ensures that partners have enough time to secure resources and staffing needs in time for summer. Develop a timeline that maps important events and organizes your coalition’s collective efforts. For example, you can establish timeframes for solidifying summer meals sites, conducting outreach, and reaching out to the media. The USDA and Feeding America have a helpful month-by-month Summer Food Service Program Timeline that explores action steps for each month leading up to summer meals.
Engage community leaders. Participation and support from high-profile community members can increase awareness and develop trust with their constituencies. Consider reaching out to administrators from your school district — including principals and superintendents — and elected officials such as state senators, assembly members, congressional officials, and mayors to educate them about the benefits of summer meals in your community and how they can participate.