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Getting Started

This can be the overwhelming part. We want to make it easier for you. We've got the why, where, who, when and how of setting up a feeding program for you – with thanks to many.

The Children's Charity Network sponsored feeding programs across Australia who shared their collective wisdom with us.


Why are you setting up this program? What do you hope it will achieve?

Though it is tempting to jump right in with food for kids, it is most helpful to sit down as a small steering committee, or even on your own, to think about the goals for this program.

First, determine the needs. Appendix B is a Needs Assessment questionnaire. Take time to carefully consider the questions asked.

Many people have learned to run great programs because they’ve learned from their mistakes.

This is an opportunity for you to ask the questions they wished they had asked themselves.

Set up your committee. As you determine tasks, decide who on the committee is best suited for each task, or find someone to join your committee to help.

Make sure you involve your community – especially parents of children who will benefit from your program. It may be difficult to involve them, but it is very helpful.


Set goals and an action plan. Maybe your long term goal is that no child in your community is going hungry. What would be a good set of goals for this school year – perhaps to find four other parents who will volunteer with you, to provide snacks to the kindergarten class each morning, and to get three grocery stores to donate food to your program. Now, how will you plan to achieve each of these goals?

Remember that your goals should be specific, measurable, realistic, and written down. This leads to success and helps you to evaluate your progress. Make sure that the concerns of each committee member are addressed in your goals. You should review your goals and update them periodically, celebrating the successes, and analyzing the failures so that you can succeed next time.

Taking time to set up a plan of action will save you time in the end, and get you where you want to go. Make a list of all the steps you need to take, all the resources you need, and contacts who might be able to help your program. Organize your list in terms of priority and in the order that things need to be done. Delegate tasks. Appendix C is a checklist of things to consider before beginning a feeding program. 


Finding a site for your feeding program is key and is one of your first tasks. It is helpful for students to be able to eat at tables and chairs in a room which is not their usual classroom.

Some schools designate a lunch room for this purpose. It is also helpful to be near running water and washrooms, and to have storage and cooking facilities within the room (such as cupboards, fridge, microwave, freezer).

Some schools hold their program in a staffroom, which generally has a stove and fridge and is not in use during class time. Other times, it is a church or other group who initiates a program, and the program is set up at their facilities.


Most children's feeding programs depend on volunteers. A few programs have a paid coordinator, but generally, the limited funds available are better spent on food than salaries. Volunteers are the key to your program. It is important to try to get parents involved in your program.

This can be a challenge, as some of the feeding needs of children are a reflection of the busy lives of their parents.

Try to be creative in setting up your program to maximize help from parents. Other sources of volunteers include local volunteer centres, seniors' clubs,  newspapers and on local radio and television.

If you are working in a school setting, it is important to have the school administration and parent councils on your side.


The other important part of the program is, of course, the children themselves. Children can and should be involved in the menu planning, preparation and clean-up processes.

A school snack program in Windsor is run entirely by grade eight students, under the supervision of their teacher. Keep good records of the children who participate in your program – especially their allergies and attendance.

(See Appendices K, L, M, and O for sample letter to parents, registration letter and volunteer agreements.)

Though many volunteers are needed to make a program successful, it is vital that one person take on the responsibility of coordinating the program. The coordinator should be on-site or available every day of the program, planning the program from preparation through cleanup.

 Job Description for Coordinator:

Find and train volunteers to help prepare food and supervise. One coordinator notes that there can be a high turnover of volunteers, as many of them get jobs or go back to school or get different shifts at work. Approaching parents to help is a wonderful way of involving them in the program.

Some of the tasks a coordinator is expected to manage include:

  • Set up volunteer schedules
  • Volunteer recognition
  • Act as liaison between parents, children, volunteers, etc
  • Involve the kids in the preparation, clean-up and menu planning
  • Create menus – this can be challenging when one relies on donations of food – it takes more volunteers to prepare salads than yogurt, for example. Also watch which foods/meals appeal to children and which don’t
  • Pick up food donations and purchase food and supplies
  • “Fundraiser!! Fundraiser!! Fundraiser!!” – Much of the money and food needed for these programs is raised by the coordinator. One coordinator at a school snack program in Croydon says she spends about 5 hours each week getting product donations
  • “Paper work” – This includes baking, keeping track of volunteers, receipts, attendance, allergies, contact person for emergencies, etc
  • Plan special events, newsletters
  • Establish emergency, safety, health procedures


Some programs offer breakfast for children; others offer lunch or snack programs, either during or outside of school hours.

When you do it depends on your individual situation – an appropriate room may only be available at a certain time, or you may have kids who are bussed to school and arrive only moments before classes start, or most children may stay at school for lunch.

A program in Croydon determined that lunch was the best time to feed children because "it would benefit the most children without disrupting classroom time."

Determine what time suits the children and your volunteers best.


How?   Setting up a budget:

Determining the cost of your program:

Estimate a cost for each child – one group in Croydon has been able to keep the cost of their snack program down to $0.30/child/day. Try to keep your costs as low as possible by looking for donated food, labour, space, funds, and equipment.


Your budget for your feeding program should include all related expenses and sources of income. Income can include fees from parents, donations of cash and products, as well as fundraising ventures. (See Appendix D for a sample budget.)

Fundraising and how to seek donations of products:

Once your budget has been developed – including food, equipment, staffing costs (if applicable) – and you have set a goal for parental contributions, think about other ways you can obtain contributions of cash and products.

Fundraising projects can be taken on, which also advertise your program. Raffles of donated items, concerts, bazaars, car washes, garage sales, and community BBQ's, are some examples of raising funds.  Be creative and have fun as you brainstorm fundraising ideas. Try to involve kids and parents in these types of projects.

Visit local businesses for donations, both financial and food (gifts-in-kind). Try grocery stores, restaurants, caterers, markets, bulk food stores, restaurant supply stores, food suppliers, etc. for food and/or used equipment. Some of these may also be sources of volunteers!


Other donations may be found by approaching local service groups, churches, unions, professional associations and unrelated businesses which may have a charitable donation fund.

Once you have local support for the project, you can approach various levels of government for assistance.

Write a simple proposal for funds that you can use with various businesses. ( See Appendix E for a sample fundraising letter.) Most businesses will ask for something in writing. Explain your group's goals, needs, and clearly ask for what you want. Explain your other fundraising plans and provide a copy of your budget. Show the benefits of such a donation.

Make sure you write clearly and simply, and proofread your proposal carefully.

Setting up a bank account

The Bendigo Bank has community accounts, with no service charges for service organizations. Check to see if other banks in your areas do likewise. Usually there are two or three people with signing authority – the coordinator and perhaps a treasurer or school administrator. Some cheques may need to be co-signed.

What? (The food of course!) 


Try to plan a month at a time. Include parents, volunteers and children in planning menus.

Use seasonal food as it keeps costs lower! Evaluate your menu for successes and dislikes as you go along, as well as preparation needs and costs.

Your menu can also serve an educational purpose – to introduce children to new foods, and to promote delicious, nutritious food. Check  your local community health department for guidelines on feeding children nutritious, low-cost foods.

(See Appendices G and H for food planning guidelines.)


As part of the educational component to your program, you can encourage children to be responsible consumers of resources – start a compost pile; avoid excess packaging on foods you purchase; recycle and re-use where possible; buy in bulk.

Food handling:

Contact your local health unit for information on food handling and safety regulations in your area.


It is the responsibility of parents to inform the school of any food allergies, special dietary needs or restrictions. Your registration form should give the parents an opportunity to list their children's special needs.

Many schools are now peanut-free zones, reflecting the increase in life-threatening peanut allergies. Though peanut butter and other nuts are a good source of protein, you are probably wise to avoid such foods in your menu.

Program Managers' Advice

In the summer when school is out, hunger is still an issue. One program has started offering a snack for children who attend summer playground program

Any leftovers from your program can be used to feed hungry people. One school uses muffins from its breakfast program to feed kids at recess. Another school distributes leftover meals to families in need

Collective kitchens are a great way to teach the children you are working with, about nutrition and cost-effective meals. Participants come together to choose recipes, buy groceries, and cook meals together to take home to feed their families

Protein provides essential amino acids. The essential amino acids must be present at the same time and in proper proportions for our bodies to use them. Animal products – such as meat, eggs and milk – provide all the amino acids our bodies require in the right proportions. Other foods must be teamed up to provide whole proteins


Legumes should always be served with grains – eg. Peanut butter sandwiches, baked beans and brown bread, refried beans and rice

Milk products should always be served with grains – eg. Macaroni and cheese, pizza, cereal with milk, rice-cheese casserole

One large feeding program pays a local hospital to prepare hot lunches for their feeding program, at a cost of $2.00/meal/day

Blending equal parts milk and milk made from powdered milk is a great way to keep costs low without compromising taste



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