Summer Meals in Philadelphia
Philadelphia’s success in serving youth through the summer can be replicated in other cities using Cities of Service’s Community Tables blueprint, which was produced with support from the ConAgra Foods Foundation. Community volunteers can help cities to increase summer meals provision through a variety of activities, from increasing public awareness to helping run meal sites.
In 2011, Mayor Michael A. Nutter created Fun Safe Philly Summer (FSPS) to provide Philadelphia youth with summer programming and opportunities to stay active throughout the school holiday. To kick off Fun Safe Philly Summer, the city hosts a field day for young people with events such as kickball, tug-of-war and dodgeball, in addition to providing free healthy snacks. Throughout the summer, FSPS hosts “pop-up” events with community partners and sponsors that include a pool party, ice-skating, skateboarding demonstrations, a pump-and-jump (bike park) event, and an end-of-summer teen dance party.
“Fun Safe Philly Summer has become a go-to resource for youth and the adults in their lives to find opportunities for young people to remain engaged, active and healthy during the summer,” says Mayor Nutter. “Whether it’s sports, reading, arts or social activities, we want to provide young people with opportunities to have a meaningful summer, in which they stretch their minds and bodies, find new interests and meet new friends.”
In 2012, the Mayor’s Office recruited an AmeriCorps VISTA member to serve as the FSPS Coordinator. While the initiative is managed by the Mayor’s Office of Policy Planning and Coordination, the FSPS Coordinator provides day-to-day implementation and coordination of all strategies. The Mayor’s Office, in partnership with the Greater Philadelphia Coalition Against Hunger, has also recruited AmeriCorps VISTA Summer Associates to perform direct outreach and increase awareness of the summer meals program in targeted high-need neighborhoods.
In addition to the AmeriCorps VISTA members, FSPS “relies heavily upon community members who volunteer their time to run summer meal sites on their block,” says FSPS Coordinator Siobhan Hickey. The volunteers supervise Play Streets in their community, which are closed to traffic each day. Play Streets, sponsored by Philadelphia Parks & Recreation, make up 900 of the 1,400 official meal sites in Philadelphia and provide young people safe locations to play, eat, and grow. The volunteers manage the distribution of summer meals funded by the USDA, as well administer free outdoor games and activities throughout the week.
Furthermore, volunteers helped to distribute 7,197 summer meal door-hangers, palm-sized information cards and posters over 12 outreach days, and distributed resources to 158 community partners.
As a result of FSPS’s work with citizen volunteers and citywide partners, more than 4 million meals were served to Philadelphia youth during the summer of 2014, up 46% from its inaugural year in 2011. Mayor Nutter supports the FSPS initiative by hosting a kickoff press event; writing an op/ed; hosting a summer job fair for teens; promoting the FSPS website on the banner page of www.phila.gov all summer long; leading a midsummer meals and reading tour for younger youth; and reporting out to the press and community partners on the accomplishments of FSPS at the completion of each summer. In addition, the Mayor meets with summer meals partners—including local stakeholders and advocates, commonwealth representatives, and the USDA—during the annual midsummer meeting to emphasize his commitment to the Philadelphia summer meals program.