Rochester Meals 4 Kids finds word of mouth most effective way to engage families

Gather, a non-profit organization based in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, has been addressing hunger for over 200 years and is dedicated to making New Hampshire’s Seacoast a hunger-free community. Gather’s Meals 4 Kids (M4K) is a mobile program delivered in six locations that provides fresh and nutritious food for school-aged children who are eligible for Free and Reduced-Priced Lunch at schools in communities throughout the Seacoast.

Typically, in non-pandemic times, M4K distributes 10 meals per week per child during the summer and over school vacations. It is also designed to expand the variety of foods kids eat, and support them in making nutritious food choices, gaining self-sufficiency skills related to selecting and preparing healthy foods, and learning how food choices affect their health.

In 2019, Gather secured a three-year grant from the New Hampshire Children’s Health Foundation to extend M4K to the rural city of Rochester and evaluate its ability to achieve M4K’s desired outcomes, as well as document the processes involved in achieving those outcomes.

Among the evaluation’s findings were:

  • Word of mouth through a trusted friend, family member or community agency is the best way to engage and retain families.
  • The mobile shopping model; the variety and quantity of foods, including produce; and consistent, kind, and engaging staff and volunteers are all important elements that make it a positive and valuable experience.
  • Ensuring low barriers to enrollment is also important.

For more information contact Anne Hayes, Gather Executive Director.

Read Project Executive Summary >