Youth ages 14-21 from across Bridgeton developed critical leadership skills and enacted meaningful change in their community through paid summer employment enrolling local families in the Summer Food Service Program. The Summer Food Service Program, supported through the U.S. Department of Agriculture, ensures low-income children continue to receive nutritious meals when school is not in session—often described as the “hungriest time of the year.” Analyzing data from community health needs assessments, the youth identified childhood hunger as a priority issue.
Determining a need for bilingual outreach, the youth incorporated tools for collaboration and tailored their canvassing and other efforts to advance awareness of, and participation in, Summer Feeding sites around the city.
In contrast to other summer-employment experiences where youth may pick up trash in a park or perform data-entry work, the Bridgeton youth developed their social capital as active community stakeholders while learning how providing their neighbors’ children with nutritious meals during a specific time of the year could improve their community’s health. In shaping the youth-led project, Gateway Community Action Partnership sought adult leaders willing to view the youth as partners in a shared transfer of knowledge and expertise to benefit their community. To encourage their continued leadership development and civic engagement, Gateway Community Action Partnership and NJHI secured opportunities for the Bridgeton youth to present their program findings and recommendations to local officials, other invested members of the community, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
Video: Bridgeton Youth: Helping to Feed, Learning to Lead
Bridgeton Teens Help to Promote Summer Program that Feeds Kids
NJ.com/Woods, D. (2016, July 21).
Bridgeton Teens Spent Summer Getting Kids Fed
Press of Atlantic City/Leonard, N. (2016, September 25).