Partnership to End Childhood Hunger in Maryland Returns Hot Meals to Local Boys and Girls ClubJanuary 23, 2012
Written byJ.K. Granberg-Michaelson
Maryland Hunger Solutions and the Partnership to End Childhood Hunger in Maryland (the “Partnership”) experienced one particular challenge in its work to implement the Afterschool Meal Program in the eight Hunger-Free Community (HFC) counties and statewide: confusion between local health departments and potential afterschool sites concerning the documentation needed to operate the Afterschool Meal Program. The first example brought to our attention involved the Boys and Girls Clubs of Annapolis and Anne Arundel County (BGCAA). Sponsored by the Maryland Food Bank, BGCAA has six sites throughout Anne Arundel County and provides programming to more than 2,400 children each year. All of the BGCAA sites participated in the Summer Food Service Program and were anxious to begin participating in the Afterschool Meal Program, through which the sites could provide a healthy supper to the more than 300 children enrolled in their afterschool programs.
BGCAA arranged for the hot meals to be provided to each site by a licensed, approved vendor contracted by the Maryland Food Bank. The Maryland Food Bank then worked with the Maryland State Department of Education to temporarily approve the six sites to begin serving suppers while BGCAA completed the application process. However, during a review of the sites by the local health department, the health inspector found that all but one site did not have a three-compartment sink and other commercial grade equipment necessary to operate the program. As a result, the health department required that all six sites immediately stop serving meals through the Afterschool Meal Program.
Confused by the requirements, BGCAA and the Maryland Food Bank approached Maryland Hunger Solutions. Since no food was being prepared on-site, BGCAA and the Maryland Food Bank could not determine the reason for the site closings. After learning that similar problems were affecting a number of jurisdictions across the state, Maryland Hunger Solutions determined that more intense training targeted to local health inspectors on the Afterschool Meal Program was needed to clarify how the program operated.
Maryland Hunger Solutions worked with the State Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DHMH, which oversees environmental health in Maryland) to review the current regulations and determine how to provide clear guidance on what was required to operate the meal program to both local health departments and afterschool programs. Maryland Hunger Solutions and DHMH developed new materials, including: a checklist for both health departments and programs to follow in completing the application process; a guide to currently existing regulations; and a flow chart to help health departments identify what type of afterschool meal delivery systems they are evaluating. Maryland Hunger Solutions and DHMH attended statewide and regional meetings with local health officers and inspectors to provide trainings on the Afterschool Meal Program, and to disseminate our easy-to-understand materials.
A solution for the challenge BGCAA and the Maryland Food Bank were facing was created through discussions with DHMH. According to Maryland regulations, if any food preparation or serving item needed to be washed at the program site, a three-compartment, sanitizing sink was required. Previously, BGCAA received the food from the vendor, served the meals to the children, and then rinsed the serving dishes and utensils before returning to the vendor. Since no food was being prepared on-site, DHMH agreed that if the vendor changed its model and didn’t require the site to rinse any pans or serving utensils prior to returning, then a three-compartment sink would not be required. Maryland Food Bank discussed the change with their vendor, who agreed to adjust its model. BGCAA then reapplied to their local health department, using the checklist we developed with DHMH to explain their new meal delivery method and the proper procedures for handling the food service items. Since the local health department had participated in the statewide trainings held by MDHS and DHMH, they were familiar with the checklist and were able to easily understand the serving model proposed by BGCAA. The health department quickly approved BGCAA for food service.
As a result of our efforts, and the hard work of DHMH, MSDE, and the Maryland Food Bank, the Boys and Girls Clubs of Annapolis and Anne Arundel County are again serving the hot suppers that so many of their children and parents have come to rely on in this time of particular economic hardship.
To learn more about the Partnership to End Childhood Hunger in Maryland please visit www.nokidhungrymd.org.