This month’s edition of Community Resource Corner features the Children’s Hunger Alliance (CHA) and organization that has one goal- end childhood hunger in Ohio. Katie Nobles sat down with James Harter, the Northern Regional Development Director at CHA.  Read the interview below to learn more about this great organization!

KN: Tell me about the Children’s Hunger Alliance and its mission.

JH: Children’s Hunger Alliance (CHA) is a statewide nonprofit organization whose mission is to ensure that children without access receive healthy food, nutrition education, and physical activity. We were founded in 1970 in Columbus, Ohio. Today, our home office is in Columbus, but we maintain regional offices in Cincinnati, Cleveland, and Toledo. We support our mission by providing food/meals to children in afterschool programs, early childhood (i.e., both licensed in-home and childcare center providers), and summer feeding sites. In addition, CHA works with K-12 schools to increase participation rates in the free and reduced breakfast program. Finally, we have a team of educators who provide age-specific educational programs on the importance of healthy nutrition and physical activity.

KN: What type of projects and partnerships have the Children’s Hunger Alliance participated in locally?

JH: In Cleveland, we have partnered with the City of Cleveland Parks and Recreation Department for a number of years providing food to children in their afterschool and summer programs. We have also partnered with the City of Youngstown Parks and Recreation and the Canton Public Libraries. Through the 3rd quarter of this fiscal year, we have served 705,326 meals at 431 sites across Northeast Ohio. We have also helped 28 schools improve the breakfast participation rates of their students who qualify for the free and reduced breakfast and lunch program.

KN: What communities does the Children’s Hunger Alliance serve?

JH: Our work is done in communities and counties across Ohio. In Northeast Ohio, we have done work in Cleveland/Cuyahoga County, Akron/Summit County, Lorain/Lorain County, Canton/Stark County, and Youngstown/Mahoning County to name a few.

The target population in the communities where we are doing work is children from low-income households between the ages of 0 (birth) and 18 who are at high risk for food insecurity, poor nutrition, and negative health outcomes. These children are eligible for free and reduced-price lunches based on household income – below 130% of the federal poverty level for free meals and between 130% and 185% of the federal poverty level for reduced-price meals.

KN: Tell me about the food education program.

JH: More than 1 in 10 preschoolers struggle with obesity due to poor nutrition and lack of exercise. CHA educates and engages children and families in healthy food choices and physical activity so they can establish healthy habits at a young age.

Our nutrition education team leads thousands of children each year through age-appropriate nutrition curriculum at daycare centers, afterschool sites, and summer programs. We also work with in-home childcare providers and daycare center staff on learning how to plan nutritious meals and offer healthy food options to the children in their care. 

Programs offered are EatPlayGrow, CATCH KIDS, and Ohio Healthy programs. EatPlayGrow helps children establish healthy habits for kids 6 and younger through hands-on activities teaching them to make healthy choices about nutrition and physical activity. CATCH KIDS (Coordinated Approach to Childhood Health) physical education curriculum is designed to promote healthful behaviors in school-aged children and reduce their subsequent risk of cardiovascular disease. Ohio Healthy Programs for childcare for the Family Childcare Provider is designed to prevent childhood overweight and obesity by promoting healthy weight and growth in all children ages birth through five years old.

KN: Why is it important to teach about nutrition and healthy food, instead of just handing it out?

JH: As mentioned previously, it is important to teach nutrition, healthy eating, and physical activity to help reduce childhood obesity. Developing good nutrition and physical activity habits at an early age can help reduce cardiovascular disease and other diseases later in life. Eating healthy can also have a positive impact on mental health.

KN: What should someone do if they need help getting food in Ohio?

JH: You can go on the Ohio Department of Education’s website. They list summer feeding sites across Ohio. 
For more information at CHA and the areas they serve, visit their website at childrenshungeralliance.org. If you need disability benefits in Ohio, contact Liner Legal today by clicking here.