Bringing Legislators to the Table | 2015 Edition



State legislators are in a unique position to tackle hunger and increase access to healthy food. Legislators simultaneously wear the hats of policymaker, hunger champion and community leader. As policymakers, legislators can direct and provide incentives for state agencies to implement new programs, catalyze coordination among agencies, give start-up or expansion funding to promising initiatives and establish an award to recognize an organization fighting hunger in their communities.

As hunger champions, they can form legislative hunger caucuses, create days for hunger awareness and elevate the visibility of hunger through their websites and social media. As community leaders, they can bring together the public, nonprofit, corporate and foundation sectors to inspire meaningful change and imagine innovative solutions for low-income communities. In short, state policymakers have the chance to serve as leaders in the battle to end hunger in the United States, starting with their communities and their states.

Within this publication, “Bringing Legislators to the Table: Addressing Hunger through Public-Private Partnerships,” 2015 Edition, are nine examples of innovative programs that involve partnerships among multiple organizations and state-level support. This publication has categorized programs broadly by their purpose and the federal nutrition programs they seek to leverage and promote. The thematic areas are:

  • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) Partnerships, including programs that provide outreach, offer application assistance and increase access to food retailers that accept SNAP.
  • Child Nutrition Partnerships, including programs that increase access and improve the quality of in-school and out-of-school nutrition programs for children.
  • Food Distribution Partnerships, including programs that improve the quality of food available at food banks and pantries, increase client choice, and provide clients with the knowledge to choose healthier and more cost-effective foods.
  • Healthy Food Access Partnerships, including programs that improve access to healthy food in urban and rural low-income communities, increase access to locally grown produce for low-income consumers and help improve the diets of low-income seniors. Each program profile includes information about the problem(s) the program seeks to address, how the program works and who benefits, the names of major partners and funding sources, relevant legislation or legislator involvement, and program results.

This guide was researched and published by the NCSL Hunger Partnership. The author consulted with national organizations and Hunger Partnership members to identify states with promising programs and campaigns and, in turn, relied on staff in nonprofit organizations to identify innovative programs. Leadership from state and local organizations provided the information in the program profiles that are listed in this guide.


The NCSL Hunger Partnership thanks the individuals and organizations that have contributed to this 2015 update of “Bringing Legislators to the Table: Addressing Hunger through Public Privative Partnerships.” We especially appreciate our Hunger Partnership members and friends for recommending public-private partnerships and legislation to highlight in this publication. This update would not be possible without you.

About the Author

Leila Malow is a 2014-2015 Bill Emerson National Hunger Fellow placed with the NCSL Hunger Partnership.  The Emerson National Hunger Fellowship is a program of the Congressional Hunger Center in Washington, D.C., that seeks to fight hunger by developing leaders. Malow worked on a range of hunger and nutrition issues at NCSL, including the Child and Adult Care Food Program and state legislative hunger caucuses.

Born in Mogadishu, Somalia, and raised in Minnesota, Leila graduated from Macalester College in 2014 with a degree in political science. She also interned at the Minnesota House of Representatives and League of Women Voters, where she researched state policy issues including foreclosure prevention, felony disenfranchisement, and campaign finance reform.

About the Hunger Partnership

The Hunger Partnership connects public and private sector partners whose focus is to improve the availability of healthy food for hungry families. The partnership brings together legislators, legislative staff and interested businesses to identify and share innovative and successful policies and programs to reduce hunger in America.

The Hunger Partnership was launched in 2010 to raise the visibility of hunger in America and highlight innovative solutions.

Featured Programs

SNAP Partnerships

SNAP Assistance Call Center
End Hunger Connecticut! | Connecticut

Related Legislative Action

States can increase access to SNAP by using the option to raise the income standard.  In 2015, Illinois increased the income eligibility for SNAP from 130 percent to 165 percent of the federal poverty level (SB 1847).

About the Organization
End Hunger Connecticut!, (EHC!) is a statewide anti-hunger and food security organization that conducts advocacy, outreach, education and research to improve the levels of food security and nutrition among Connecticut families while creating and supporting policies that move families toward self-sufficiency.

Nearly one-fourth of working poor individuals in Connecticut who were eligible for SNAP did not participate in the program in 2012. Those with no history of receiving public benefits and seniors, in particular, may be less likely to participate in SNAP because of factors such as the perceived difficulty of the enrollment process and stigma associated with receiving benefits.

Program Description
Since 2013, EHC! has operated the state’s only SNAP assistance call center. The EHC! Call Center assists first-time SNAP applicants and those seeking to recertify their enrollment. The End Hunger Connecticut Call Center provides information about SNAP and helps callers determine their eligibility and navigate the SNAP application and recertification process. Call center associates answer frequently asked questions about SNAP and can conduct a screening to find out if callers are eligible for benefits. Call center associates can help eligible individuals complete a SNAP online application over the phone, which is convenient for applicants without Internet access and/or limited mobility. The EHC! Call Center provides assistance in English and Spanish and can be reached toll-free Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5p.m.

Once callers have completed their application, they can scan or mail in verification documents to the EHC! office and call center associates will ensure that applicants’ documents are accurate and submitted on time. The EHC! Call Center then conducts a friendly check-up to confirm that assisted callers received their SNAP benefits.

The EHC! Call Center has screened 4,000 individuals for SNAP eligibility and helped 2,100 callers apply for benefits since launching in 2013.

The EHC! Call Center is made possible through grant funding from USDA and the AARP Foundation.

Contact Information:
Sherry L. Suber, SNAP program manager
End Hunger Connecticut
860-560-2100 x306

The Community Partners Program
Texas Hunger Initiative | Texas

About the Organization
The Texas Hunger Initiative (THI) at Baylor University is a capacity-building, collaborative project dedicated to developing and implementing strategies to end hunger through policy, education, research, community organizing and community development.

Texas has the third highest household food insecurity rate in the country. However, according to the USDA, only 75 percent of eligible Texans received SNAP benefits in 2012, leaving more than 1 million low-income people in Texas without SNAP to improve their food security.

Program Description
Starting in 2012, the Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) partnered with THI to improve access to SNAP and other core public benefits programs through the Community Partners Program.  The Community Partners Program built a statewide-network of organizations to help low-income Texans enroll in and manage their benefits using, HHSC’s benefits application and management website. THI recruits community-based organizations to participate in the Community Partners Program and supports their capacity to provide application assistance and enrollment services. A wide range of organizations serve in the Community Partners Program, including faith organizations, health centers, food banks, educational institutions and libraries.

When organizations join the Community Partners Program, they sign a nonfinancial memorandum of understanding with HHSC and commit to one of two levels of participation. At the first level of participation, called self-service sites, organizations provide a computer with Internet for clients to use to access Self-service sites agree to display information about HHSC benefit programs and HHSC’s website address. Assistance sites, the second level of participation, provide staff or volunteers to help individuals apply for benefits and manage their cases online in addition to the resources available at self-service sites.

Since launching, 1,286 community organizations have joined the Community Partners Program. Through partnering with THI and leveraging community partnerships and resources, HHSC has created an innovative public-private partnership to promote SNAP and other public benefits. In June 2015, 62.9 percent of the applications for HHSC benefits were through due in part to the efforts of the Community Partners Program.

HHSC contracts THI to recruit and support community organizations to join the Community Partners Program.

Contact Information:
Doug McDurham, MSW, director of programs
Texas Hunger Initiative
Baylor University

Child Nutrition Partnerships

Children’s Hospital Connects Kids to Free Meals
Arkansas Children’s Hospital | Arkansas

Related Legislative Action
Legislators can establish funding for after-school meals and snacks for at risk-youth. In 2014, Arkansas appropriated $91,000 in grants for school districts to use for after-school programming and nutrition services.

About the Organization
Arkansas Children’s Hospital (ACH) is the only pediatric medical center in Arkansas. One of the largest children’s hospitals in the U.S., ACH provides comprehensive care to children and families throughout Arkansas and surrounding areas.

According to Children’s Health Watch, children from food-insecure families in Arkansas are 45 percent more likely to have fair or poor health and 19 percent more likely to be hospitalized compared to children from food-secure families.

Program Description
In an effort to address the links between hunger and poor child health outcomes, AHC provides summer and after-school meals at no charge to children who visit the campus. Patients, regardless of the reason for their hospital visit, and accompanying family members or friends under the age of 18 can receive a free, nutritious meal year-round at ACH’s Riverbend Café. Children can eat a free meal at the Riverbend Café or take the meal to a campus location that is more convenient for their appointment. Advertisements near ACH clinics and elevators alert caregivers and children about the free meal program.  

ACH staff report that when the hospital started operating the summer meal program in 2013, there were no model examples of hospitals operating out-of-school meals programs on-site. ACH worked closely with the USDA and the Arkansas Department of Human Services to determine how the hospital could participate in SFSP and CACFP. Today, ACH is a model for other hospitals across the country looking to launch a similar program.

Between June 2014 and June 2015, ACH provided 33,767 free meals to children through its participation in SFSP and CACFP.

ACH provides free meals to children through federal funding from the USDA’s Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) and Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP).  The Arkansas Department of Human Services provided technical assistance to ACH to help launch the program. Student-volunteers from Community Based Instruction programs at three local high schools prepare the majority of the free meals at no cost to the hospital.

Contact Information:
Anna Strong, executive director, Child Advocacy and Public Health
Arkansas Children's Hospital

Legislators at the Table

West Virginia Legislator leads Intergenerational Meals Initiative: In West Virginia, state Senator John Unger (D) uses his role as a legislator, community leader and pastor to bring together a diverse group of public and private partners to provide children and seniors with meals and enrichment activities during the summer months. Since 2014, Unger has spearheaded the Feed to Achieve Summer Intergenerational Community Strong Initiative in Jefferson County. The community-led initiative feeds children and seniors while building intergenerational ties.  At partner sites throughout the county, children and seniors share meals and participate in activities together, such as gardening and art projects. In rural areas, the initiative operates lunch buses that bring meals and activities to children and seniors in neighborhoods without ready access to partner sites.

The West Virginia Council on Aging provides meals for the Community Strong Initiative. The initiative collaborates with the West Virginia Office of Child Nutrition and local organizations, the faith community and private sector partners to offer on-site and lunch bus programming.

The Community Strong initiative addresses two significant issues: summer hunger and senior social isolation. Seniors benefit from the initiative by receiving meals and a space to engage in meaningful community interactions. Simultaneously, the initiative gives children access to food during the summer when they are most at risk of hunger, as well as an opportunity to receive mentorship from seniors in their community.

The Feed to Achieve Act: In 2013, the West Virginia Legislature passed SB 663, otherwise known as the Feed to Achieve Act, to improve access to the school breakfast program. The bill was sponsored by Senator Unger and requires public schools to implement innovative breakfast delivery strategies to ensure that all children can consume a nutritious school breakfast free of charge. The bill also directs the West Virginia Department of Education and county boards of education to set up a fund that allows public and private partners to donate and support efforts to provide children with out-of-school meals.

Improving School Breakfast Participation in High-Need High Schools
Houston and Arlington Independent School Districts | Texas 

Related Legislative Action
In 2013, Texas enacted SB 376, sponsored by Senator Eddie Lucio, which requires Texas schools with at least 80 percent of students qualifying for free or reduced price lunch to
offer breakfast free to all students

About the Organization
The Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) is the leading national nonprofit organization working to improve public policies to eradicate hunger and undernutrition in the U.S. Kellogg Company Fund, the philanthropic arm of Kellogg Company, focuses its efforts on hunger relief—with an emphasis on childhood hunger—through its Breakfasts for Better Days initiative. The Houston and Arlington Independent School Districts are public educational institutions dedicated to providing students with healthy nutritious meals.

While school breakfast is shown to reduce the risk of food insecurity and improve academic achievement, traditional school breakfast programs can be difficult to access for many low-income children who are unable to arrive before the start of the school day.

Program Description
In 2014, FRAC partnered with high schools in Houston and Arlington Independent School Districts in Texas to implement alternative breakfast service models to improve participation in the school breakfast program. Through funding from the Kellogg Company Fund, FRAC provided technical support and grants to high-need Texas high schools to adopt meal delivery models that incorporate breakfast into the school day. Four high schools in Houston and Arlington Independent School District were selected to revamp their school breakfast program: Mily High, Sterling High, Kashmere High School and Sam Houston High.

Through the Grab-N-Go model, students in Arlington Independent School District are able to pick up pre-packaged school breakfasts as they enter the building and eat them in the hallway and/or during first period class. Similarly, in Houston Independent School District, breakfast was integrated into the school day by having meals delivered directly to classrooms using hot and cold insulated bags. While students settle in, teachers are able to collect homework, take attendance or give morning announcements. In both models, this seamless integration of school breakfast into the school day has enabled students to get the nutrients they need to perform their best in the classroom.

More than 900 additional students started their day with a nutritious school breakfast because of the collaborative work of the school districts, FRAC and the Kellogg Company Fund. In Arlington Independent School District, Sam Houston High School’s daily breakfast participation rates increased by 35 percent. In Houston Independent School District, Milby High School experienced a 27 percent increase in daily breakfast participation rates while breakfast participation more than doubled at Sterling and Kashmere High Schools.

The featured project is a partnership between Houston and Arlington Independent School Districts, FRAC and the Kellogg Company Fund. Through Kellogg funding, FRAC was able to provide technical support and grant funding to both Houston and Arlington Independent School Districts to implement new breakfast service models. The USDA School Breakfast Program provides federal reimbursements for school breakfast meals.

Contact Information:
Mieka Sanderson, child nutrition policy analyst
Food Research and Action Center
Phone: 202-640-1080.

Jodi Gibson, executive director and vice president of social responsibility
Kellogg Company Fund
Phone: 269-961-2000

Food Distribution Partnerships

Food Recovery Coalition Combats Hunger
Waste Not OC | California

Related Legislative Action

Legislators can encourage producers to donate excess fresh foods to food pantries. In 2014, Colorado enacted HB 1119, the Colorado Charitable Crop Donation Act, which provides Colorado producers with a 25 percent tax credit for the wholesale value of surplus food they donate to charitable organizations in Colorado.

About the Organization
The Waste Not OC Coalition is a public-private coalition to end hunger in Orange County by facilitating the donation of wholesome surplus food to emergency food providers.

The USDA Economic Research Service estimates that 31 percent of consumable food in the United States went to waste in 2010 (the most recent data available).

Program Description
Started in 2012, the Waste Not OC Coalition (WNOC) brought together the Orange County Health Care Agency and more than 20 nonprofit and private industry partners to combat hunger and food waste in Orange County. WNOC food recovery efforts include: educating food waste producers on how to donate food, transporting donations to pantries, and identifying and connecting food-insecure people to pantries.

WNOC informs potential donors, such as hospitals and restaurants, about the option to donate food, and addresses questions and concerns donating excess food. The coalition trains food waste producers to safely handle and efficiently donate food. WNOC partners with Food Finders, an organization that transports excess food from producing facilities to pantries. Local donors can simply contact Food Finders to pick up and transport their food donations.

In its work to connect people in need with emergency food, WNOC partners with hospitals and clinics in Orange County to screen families for food-insecurity and make referrals to pantries and other resources. WNOC developed a map of 230 local food distribution sites to make it easier for food-insecure families and donors to identify local pantries that distribute and accept food donations.

From July 2014 to March 2015, WNOC recovered 122,483 lbs. of excess food, or approximately 102,069 meals, that otherwise would have gone to waste. 

The Orange County Health Care Agency and more than 20 public and private partners form WNOC. The Orange County Health Agency raises awareness about food waste and educates food producers about food recovery through direct outreach and print resources. WNOC partner Food Finders, which transports food donations from producers to pantries. WNOC operates on funding from United Way Orange County and in-kind donations from a variety of community partners.

Contact Information:

Alexandra Alcon, Project Manager
Waste Not OC Coalition
949- 529-0457

Food Bank Community Wellness Program
Second Harvest Food Bank of Greater New Orleans and Acadiana | Louisiana

Related Legislative Action

Legislators can establish funding opportunities for food banks that are cost-neutral for the state. In 2011, the Arizona legislature enacted SB1402, authorizing the state to produce a special anti-hunger license plate. Each plate will result in a $17 donation to the Association of Food Banks, which will distribute the funds among its food bank network.

About the Organization
Second Harvest Food Bank of Greater New Orleans and Acadiana mission is to lead the fight against hunger and build food security in South Louisiana by providing food access, advocacy, education and disaster response.

Food insecurity in Louisiana is well above the national average, with 16.5 percent of state residents struggling to meet their food needs. In New Orleans, Louisiana’s largest city, the issue of hunger is especially pronounced, with 1 in 5 individuals food-insecure in 2013. 

Program Description
In addition to providing emergency food, Second Harvest supports food-insecure Louisianans by connecting families in need to resources and information to improve their health and economic security. Second Harvest’s Community Wellness Program offers the Community Wellness Resource Center that links clients with public and private assistance programs, Second Harvest Help Line and a Nutrition Education program.

Staff at the Community Wellness Resource Center connect clients to emergency food pantry and baby supplies, nutrition education programs and to health and wellness events. The center has computers and phone access available for clients to apply for public assistance programs. Clients can also receive benefits assistance over the phone by calling the Second Harvest Help Line, which conducts benefits eligibility screenings and helps individuals apply for a host of public benefit programs.

Through the Nutrition Education Program, Second Harvest offers Cooking Matters and Cooking Matters at the Store classes, which provide nutrition education, cooking and food budgeting strategies to help families prepare healthy meals on a budget. Cooking Matters is a six-week interactive class taught by culinary and nutrition professional who share budget-friendly tips and nutritious recipes with clients. Second Harvest hosts Cooking Matters in a state-of-the-art kitchen at its New Orleans facility and offers classes at 32 host agencies. The Cooking Matters at the Store program is hosted by 25 partnering organizations and leads participants through a grocery tour in which they learn shopping and budgeting tips to help stretch limited food dollars.

From January to July 2015, the Community Wellness program at Second Harvest provided benefits application assistance to approximately 1220 individuals. The Cooking Matters program has taught 954 participants since launching and 805 individuals have participated in the Cooking Matters at the Store tour.

Second Harvest partners with Share Our Strength, a national anti-hunger organization, to offer Cooking Matters and Cooking Matters at the Store and works with more than 50 community sites that host the classes and tours. Second Harvest’s benefits outreach is partly funded by the USDA. The organization is able to cover half of its SNAP outreach costs from USDA SNAP outreach funding through the Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services.

Kimberly Krupa, director, Programs and Services
Second Harvest Food Bank of Greater New Orleans and Acadiana

The Dakota Medical Foundation | North Dakota

Related Legislative Action
Legislators launch efforts to connect children with locally sourced fresh fruits and vegetables. In 2009, Texas passed SB 1027, establishing the Interagency Farm to School Task Force to plan and create a farm-to-school program at all Texas schools that participate in the National School Lunch Program. Farm-to-school programs provide schools with fresh food grown and raised by local farms and producers.


About the Organization
The Dakota Medical Foundation (DMF) is a foundation based in Fargo, North Dakota that supports and invests in strategies and organizations that work to improve health in the region. DMF, in collaboration with more than 40 public and private community partners, leads CassClayAlive!, an initiative that aims to make Cass and Clay counties the healthiest places in America.

More than 30 million children participate in the National School Lunch Program. School lunchrooms play a critical role in the access children have to nutritious foods and serve as a key avenue for promoting healthy eating.

Program Description
The Dakota Medical Foundation, through the CassClayAlive! Initiative, works with school administrators, food service professionals, and teachers and staff to improve school foods and encourage children to make healthier choices at the cafeteria. CassClayAlive! offers four training programs to enhance the nutritional environment at schools in Cass and Clay counties: Culinary Boot Camp, Comfortable Cafeterias, Smarter Lunchrooms and Adventurous Tasters.

In the Culinary Boot Camp, a registered dietician and chef train school food service professionals to prepare healthy school meals from scratch. The Boot Camp provides school food service professionals with recipes and culinary demonstrations on topics such as cooking with USDA commodity foods and making foods flavorful with spices and herbs instead of salt. While the Boot Camp works to enhance the ability of schools to make available nutritious foods, the Comfortable Cafeterias, Smarter Lunchrooms and Adventurous Tasters trainings focus on encouraging children to make healthy choices at the cafeteria.

Through Comfortable Cafeterias, Smarter Lunchrooms and Adventurous Tasters trainings, school officials and staff learn about evidence-based strategies that nudge children to try new nutritious foods and develop positive associations with healthy eating. These strategies range from giving foods catchy names, such as laser-vision carrots, to making the cafeteria a more physically and socially appealing place to eat.

The Culinary Boot Camp, the first training to launch, has trained 135 school food service and consumer science staff on improving the quality and appeal of school meals, and how to incorporate the Dietary Guidelines in planning and preparing meals. CassClayAlive! is implementing the Comfortable Cafeterias, Smarter Lunchrooms and Adventurous Tasters component in the 2015-2016 school year.

The Dakota Medical Foundation funds CassClayAlive! and partners with the North Dakota South East Education Cooperative and the North Dakota Department of Public Instruction to offer the Culinary Boot Camp, Comfortable Cafeterias, Smarter Lunchrooms and Adventurous Tasters trainings.

Contact Information:
Rory Beil, director, ClassClayAlive!
Dakota Medical Foundation

Legislators at the Table

From Hunger Partnership Co-chair, Representative Dwight Evans, Pennsylvania: “Quite simply, food is medicine. For our children, for our seniors, and for the most vulnerable among us, providing access to fresh fruits and vegetables is the single most important step we can take to nourish people, neighborhoods and entire communities. I pioneered the Pennsylvania Fresh Food Financing Initiative 11 years ago when faced with the troubling fact that almost half a million Pennsylvanians face hunger and food insecurity issues, even though the commonwealth is a world leader in food production and processing.  Since those efforts took root in the Keystone State in 2004, increasing access to healthy foods in underserved communities has become a nationwide undertaking whose astonishing results grow more impressive each passing day. “

61st Street Farmers Market
Experimental Station | Illinois

Related Legislative Action

States can create pathways for low-income communities to access healthy, affordable foods. In 2014, Massachusetts passed HB 4375 establishing the Massachusetts Food Trust Program to provide loans, grants, and technical assistance to support health food outlet in low-income communities.

About the Organization
The mission of the Experimental Station is to build independent cultural infrastructure on the South Side of Chicago by fostering innovative educational and cultural programs, small business enterprises and community initiatives. The organization’s programs include the 61st Street Farmers Market, Blackstone Bicycle Works bike shop, a professional training program, Invisible Institute (a multi-media documentary program) and a community elementary school.

More than 23 million Americans live in food deserts, which are areas without nearby grocery stores or markets that provide access to affordable and healthy food. Low-income people represent more than half of the U.S. population living in food deserts. Food deserts contribute to food insecurity and malnutrition in low-income communities. 

Program Description
In 2008, Experimental Station launched the 61st Street Farmers Market to improve access to nutritious, fresh food in the Woodlawn and Hyde Park neighborhoods of South Side Chicago, an area the organization identified as a food desert. The 61st Street Farmers Market offers residents fresh produce, meats, eggs, cheeses and prepared foods from more than 20 local and regional farm vendors every Saturday during growing season and once a month from November to April. The 61st Farmers Market also provides educational programming on health and nutrition, and hosts community activities that celebrate the cultures of South Side Chicago. Additionally, Experimental Station aims to have the 61st Street Farmers Market reflect the communities it serves by recruiting African-American producers and vendors to participate in the Farmers Market.

Low-income families and seniors can shop at the market using their EBT benefits card and Senior Farmers Market Coupons. Experimental Station partnered with the Illinois Department of Commerce and the City of Chicago Department of Family and Support Services to offer Double Value Coupons, a nutrition-incentive program, to low-income families. When customers shop using their EBT card at the 61st Street Farmers Market, Experimental Station matches up to $25 of the purchase, per market day, in Double Value Coupons that can be redeemed to buy more fresh food. In 2014, Experimental Station worked with the City of Chicago to offer Double Value Coupons at 16 city-operated farmers markets.

In 2013, the 61st Street Farmer Market served 433 households that shopped with EBT cards, approximately 1,000 people. More than four-fifths of EBT shoppers at the 61st Street Farmers Market stated that Double Values incentives was important in their decision to shop at the market and 95 percent of the purchases they made were farm-fresh and staple foods like eggs and bread.

The Double Value Coupon program at 61st Street Farmers Market is a partnership of the Experimental Station, Illinois Department of Commerce and the City of Chicago Department of Family and Support Services, which provide funding for the program.

Contact Information:

Connie Spreen, executive director
Experimental Station


 Prepared by Leila Malow, Bill Emerson National Hunger Fellow, NCSL Hunger Partnership.

August 2015