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CHAMPS program offers free after school meals to local youth

As one of only 31 cities nationwide to be part of the Cities Combating Hunger through Afterschool and Summer Meal Programs (CHAMPS), the City of Russellville was chosen as the Alabama location to host an event celebrating after school meals.

The event was held Tuesday afternoon at the Chucky Mullins Center. CHAMPS is operated through the National League of Cities and the Food Research Action Center. CHAMPS works closely with city leaders and agencies to find ways to grow participation in the federally-funded after school and summer meal programs.

The meal programs are funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture through state agencies in California, Alabama and Kansas, the only three states chosen to participate in CHAMPS. Russellville is one of 10 Alabama communities selected.

Russellville has been a great CHAMPS example, and we are excited to be able to feature and highlight the city's efforts to increase access to these vital nutritional and educational programs,” said Dawn Schluckebier with the National League of Cities.

Tuesday's event was organized by the Russellville Parks and Recreation Department and Director Chad Sears, along with Russellville City Schools Child Nutrition Director Elaine Vaughn and Laura Lester from the Alabama Food Bank Association.

The event was designed to highlight the after school meals program in Russellville and the link between student success and nutrition and to raise awareness in Russellville about the after school meal program sites, which are the Ralph Bishop Community Center and the Mullins Center. Organizers also demonstrated Russellville's work as a model for other cities in Alabama to replicate.

CHAMPS was established in 2010 with the federal Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act. Children can eat free meals at sites offering educational enrichment activities after school, during the weekends and on school holidays.

The USDA also funds summer nutrition programs through the National Summer Lunch Program Seamless Summer Option and the Summer Food Service Program where kids can eat for free at sites meeting the eligibility criteria for the program.

City leaders are encouraged to address issues of food insecurity and promote the availability of meal programs in their community. Russellville Mayor David Grissom said there is a direct link between proper nutrition and student performance in the classroom.

It's important both at school, and after school, that our children receive healthy, nutritionally-balanced meals that allow them to achieve maximum performance in school. CHAMPS is an effective tool in seeing that kids in Russellville have access to nutritious meals after school as well,” Grissom said.

The after school program offered by the City of Russellville is open to all children ages 6-18. For more information, contact Sears at 256-332-8770.

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