The city of Durham recently received a $125,000 grant to help address childhood hunger as part of a nationwide initiative known as Cities Combating Hunger Through After-school and Summer Meal Programs (CHAMPS).

According to press release from the city, the grant will expand local summer and after-school meal sites, and will serve an additional 14,850 meals to students. NLC launched the Durham initiative with an orientation call to the city’s team on August 8, and on August 9, Durham City Council voted to accept the award. The grant period will last until December 31, 2019.

“We are thrilled to have this grant and we will be using it to increase the capacity to serve meals through Durham Public Schools, the Durham County Department of Social Services, and community partners,” Mayor Steve Schewel said in the press release. “Our goal is to triple the number of children and families served after school and in the summer from five thousand to fifteen thousand per day over the next four years.”

The National League of Cities (NLC) and the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) awarded the money to the city on July 24, along with 18 months of technical assistance that will help support after-school and summer meals programs. According to the grant letter of award, this technical assistance includes “one-on-one guidance for teams from each city, opportunities for peer learning, and access to national experts and cities with advanced strategies in place.”

Peter Skillern, executive director at Reinvestment Partners, worked with others at the nonprofit to write the grant application at Schewel’s request. Now he says he’s excited to see how the grant will create a surplus of resources for existing food insecurity programs.

“We hope the grant will help Durham Food Services serve more clients, or rather, more students,” he says. “Our agency is deeply involved in supporting our local food system.”

According to a 2016-17 food insecurity profile from the Food Bank of Central & Eastern North Carolina, 24.7 percent, or 12,780 children under the age of 18, were food insecure in Durham County in 2016 and 2017 (food insecurity refers to a lack of quality, variety, or desirability of diet). During that same time period, 62.2 percent of children in Durham County received free or reduced school meals. One in five children in North Carolina struggle with hunger, according to Feeding America, a hunger relief organization.

Clifford M. Johnson, executive director of NLC’s Institute for Youth, Education, and Families, says that city leaders play an important role in addressing childhood hunger.

“With mayors at the forefront of these local anti-hunger campaigns, we know that cities can improve the health and well-being of children and families in their communities,” he said in a statement. “The grant and technical assistance that these CHAMPS cities will receive allows them to find new ways to address hunger and brings the full force of a city, its agencies and staff, nonprofit providers, and business and community leaders at large together to make sure that children have access to the regular meals they need to grow and thrive.”

Other cities that will receive a grant are Allentown, Pennsylvania; Jackson, Mississippi; Little Rock, Arkansas; Miami Gardens, Florida; and Winston-Salem, North Carolina.