Increasing participation in the Summer Food Service Program isn’t always easy. There are no silver bullets or magic spells. Being successful also doesn’t require fancy outreach materials that break the bank. The secret, according to the Food Bank of Delaware, is hard work and creativity.
Hard work helped them increase the number of summer meals served from around 192,000 in 2007 to more than 425,000 in 2010. Food Bank of Delaware Branch Manager, Crystal Timmons, emphasizes that creative, low-cost ideas get the credit for the dramatic increase in participation. “We literally went through the phonebook, targeting those low income pockets of poor families that are hidden inside what are otherwise considered very wealthy communities.”
The Food Bank designed and printed out simple and effective flyers targeted to particular groups. “We had volunteers go door-to-door in low-income areas. We visited day care centers and civic organizations, and had our greatest success with churches, where we found willing participants with a mission to better serve their local community.”
The Food Bank also took advantage of local media resources—without spending a dime. “We asked local radio stations to use their Public Service Announcement (PSA) requirement to advertise where summer feeding sites were located.” They also used local television stations, again at zero cost. Delaware’s WBAC TV broadcasts a Pentecostal Church service every Sunday. “They gave us five minutes before the service started one week and we talked about where sites were located and how to help sponsor or host a program.” She said, “The response was so overwhelming that they gave us ten minutes the next week.”
Crystal and the other hard working and creative staff at the Food bank of Delaware are at it again this year. They don’t have any extra funding or a new formula to increase participation. “It’s all about the legwork; getting out there and talking to people who need our help at the places they congregate; where they watch and listen and where they live.”
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