Cooking Up A New Summer Meal Program

How might we increase kids’ access to healthy meals in the summertime?


The Challenge
If you’re an organization providing 23 million meals across three states, you can imagine how many hurdles you’d face. When Freestore Foodbank came to us, they had one problem that rose to the top: only 9% of kids in Cincinnati who were eligible for free and reduced-priced lunch actually used free summer meal programs. That’s 63,000 kids that could be getting access to free meals in the summer but weren’t.


The Approach
If we were going to increase that number, we had to figure out why kids weren’t participating, and find new ways to close the “summer meal gap.”  Leveraging research conducted by Sprout Insights, we partnered with Freestore to develop and test two alternative meal site models that were inspired and vetted by the kids and parents who use these meal programs. Read the full case study.


The Details

Our work included:

  • Conceptualizing program models with families, frontline workers, and experts
  • Implementing and evaluating two different pilots in two neighborhoods
  • Distilling the best practices into toolkits to scale the work to other communities
  • Producing a promotional video to support Culinary Camp toolkit’s outreach


The Impact
By the end of summer 2016, we helped launch two successful pilots: Culinary Camp, a hands-on cooking program for kids, and Unpack’d, a mobile pop-up lunch site. Both models used deep engagement and creative branding to fight stigma and overcome the major barriers kids faced. To scale the work to more communities, we used what we learned to create toolkits that Freestore could share with other communities


Freestore Foodbank
Sprout Insight
Feeding America


Community-Centered Design



Program Development
Prototype Coaching


2015 – 2017


Download the Culinary Camp Toolkit, The Culinary Camp Teen Curriculum and the Mobile Food Toolkit.

We have 4 kids, ages 4-12, that I saw for the first time this week. I mentioned Culinary Camp to them and they came everyday. They were so excited; on the last day, they came running.

Service Area Coordinator, Cincinnati Recreation Commission

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