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South Florida children need your help to ensure year-round healthy meals

Our President and CEO Lynne Kunins wrote an editorial about the importance of providing year-round healthy meals to children, which was published in the Sun-Sentinel.

By Lynne Kunins

Even in communities as large as South Florida, where there are so many resources available, far too many people struggle every day to meet their basic needs – and consistent access to nutritious meals is always at the top of the list. The sad truth is that the children in our community are no exception. This point alone should be reason enough to focus on this problem and work together to find solutions. It is my privilege to represent an organization that aims to change the status quo when it comes to hunger; through both our innovative programs and our strategic partnerships – because everyone has a role to play in addressing the needs of our state’s children.  

Florida Introduces Physical Activity and Nutrition to Youth (FLIPANY) is a nonprofit agency serving youth and families, including seniors, through collaborations with community centers, parks, and social services agencies serving low-income communities. We offer innovative programs that fight childhood obesity and hunger by focusing on healthy food preparation, food security, physical education and work-site wellness. We understand that addressing wellness in our community requires an approach that considers all aspects and needs of those we are working to assist. 

In building this comprehensive strategy, we had the opportunity to expand our outreach through a valuable partnership with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. In 2014, we began partnering with its Summer BreakSpot program to help provide nutritious, well-balanced meals to our area’s children during the summer months when school is not in session. This federally funded program covers the cost of the meals and we build the local network of meal sites where children can easily access the meals they need. Since starting as a sponsor, we have seen our footprint grow tremendously and we now sponsor a network of 140 meal sites across several South Florida counties. 

One of the wonderful things about this partnership is that we have been able to bridge what FLIPANY offers in terms of wellness education and physical activity and pair it with the resources made available through Summer BreakSpot. The program provides the perfect add-on benefit to centers where we are already active, by offering the children in attendance access to quality meals throughout the day. Even during 2020 when schools went virtual, this program adapted, through specialized grants, and allowed us to remain involved in the children’s lives through meal-to-go options – ensuring that we continued to meet the needs of those we serve in a way that was safe for everyone. 

In addition to the obvious benefits and direct engagement with our community, Summer BreakSpot partnerships also allow us to support businesses in our community who prepare the meals served at the sites. Local caterers and even small restaurants that become approved vendors can work with Summer BreakSpot sponsors like FLIPANY and get paid to create meals for pre-determined contract periods. This structure helped many of the meal prep partners we work with stay afloat during a very tumultuous time, when their doors might otherwise have been closed. This, and so much more, is the beauty of Summer BreakSpot. Organizations and businesses in a community come together for a greater good. Vendors, drivers and caterers all see first-hand the impact they have on South Florida’s children. 

Summer BreakSpot is currently recruiting new sponsors and they need organizations and businesses like yours to step up to the challenge. Whether you think you could serve as a sponsor, a meal site, or even a vendor, I encourage you to learn more about how you can get involved. Visit SummerBreakSpot.org today and take that first step in improving the lives of those around you.  

Lynne Kunins is the Founder, President and CEO of FLIPANY, which she created in 2005 to address the health and education disparities in these underserved areas of Florida. This letter was originally published in the Sun-Sentinel on February 9, 2022.