Beyond Funding: Capacity and Skill-Building to Enhance the Ability to Address Rural Child Nutrition

Beyond Funding: Capacity and Skill-Building to Enhance the Ability to Address Rural Child Nutrition

Nicole R. Peritore (Augusta University, USA) and Joann Lianekhammy (University of Kentucky, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-2787-0.ch005

Abstract

The Rural Child Poverty Nutrition Center (RCPNC) was created through grant funding from the United States Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service and designed to address childhood food insecurity in persistently poor, rural counties in the United States. The RCPNC selected various community projects that focused on child nutrition assistance programs. Administration and technical assistance from the RCPNC allowed for improvements to child nutrition programs for the sub-grantees through the grant beginning with community needs assessments and programming meeting their individual needs. Evaluation found that the RCPNC was successful in assisting the sub-grantees reach their unique goals, which improve the initial outcomes as desired by the grant. Additionally, despite the unique communities the sub-grantees served, there were commonalities that linked all of the communities. This chapter describes the process with which the RCPNC sought unique communities with creative projects and explains the ways in which others can improve child nutrition outcomes.
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Introduction

The Rural Child Poverty Nutrition Center (RCPNC) was created in 2015 through grant funding from the United States Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service and designed to address childhood food insecurity in persistently poor, rural counties in the United States. The RCPNC developed and administered sub awards and selected numerous community- centered projects that concentrated on child nutrition assistance programs. Organization, supervision, and technical assistance from the RCPNC allowed for the individual communities to make improvements to child nutrition programs for the sub-grantees through the grant. Despite differences in the rural communities, the lessons learned shared a common thread and offer opportunities to learn effective ways for working in communities and addressing child nutrition issues.

The objectives of this chapter are:

  • Discuss the process for which the RCPNC established and managed sub awards in 15 sites.

  • Explain the process of working with sub-grantees from pre-implementation to the grant’s conclusion.

  • Examine the project strategies including their successes and challenges.

  • Illustrate policy recommendations for a local and federal level.

  • Articulate lessons learned for the sub-grantees as well as RCPNC.

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Background

The importance of nutrition on development throughout childhood is well established through research (e.g., Alaimo, Olson, & Frongillo, Jr., 2001; Gundersen & Zilliak, 2015). This is especially of interest because in 2017, one in six households with children were affected by food insecurity (Coleman-Jensen, Rabbitt,). Food insecurity, in the most general definition, refers to the limited “availability of enough food for the household to meet basic needs” (Hamilton, et al., 1997, p. 2). In one systematic review of the topic, a total of 23 articles from developed countries were examined to investigate the link between food insecurity and negative child development outcomes (Shankar, Chung, & Frank, 2017). The authors found resounding evidence of negative associations in social, emotional, and academic outcomes among youth with insufficient access to food. Different negative outcomes related to the lack of or uncertainty of having enough to eat were found across the developmental stages in childhood. Examples of the outcomes identified by the review are briefly discussed by age range. Infants and toddlers 24 months old experienced immediate negative impacts on attachment, cognitive development, and other mental proficiencies. For children of preschool age, 3-5 years, living in food insecure households increased the risk of behavioral and emotional issues such as aggressive behavior, mood affect, and attention-deficit/hyperactivity. Children aged 6 to 13 years, living in food insecure homes, also presented linkages to adverse social and emotional behaviors. Additionally, this age group revealed associations between food insecurity and unfavorable academic outcomes such as lower math scores, delays in reading, and the increased likelihood of repeating a grade. Adolescents from households reporting food insecurity were more likely to report major psychosocial correlates with higher rates of diagnoses that include anxiety, depression, suicidal ideal, and substance use disorders. Results from the review clearly established the negative relationship between food insecurity and the severe negative developmental impact on a child that can occur (Shankar, Chung, & Frank, 2017). Given the public health implications of food insecurity on child development, many programs in the public and private sector have been developed to provide families with food assistance.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Coalition: When a group of individuals gather together on a set basis to work towards a common goal.

Implementation: When a plan or decision is acted upon as intended.

Sustainability: When a program or effort is maintained at a certain level beyond the intended timeframe of the intervention.

Tailored Programs: The selection and implementation of activities that were created to meet the needs of the group or community in which the program is being provided.

Community Volunteers: When persons or organizations offer their time, talent or resources towards an action or cause on a voluntary basis.

Community Participatory Approaches: Engagement of community members in a systematic way so that everyone who has a stake in proposed changes has a voice.

Advocating: Openly providing support for a person, cause, or organization.

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