Summer Camp Food Program

The Problem:

  • Summer Camp kids who were a part of the ‘Around the World in a Summer’ summer camp at the Harvest Point Apartments (HP) in South Jersey don’t eat the majority of the “nutritious” food provided to them by the local food bank.

Who was interviewed:

12 Individuals in the Harvest Point Summer Camp. All interviews were conducted in person over the course of two separate days

  • 10 summer campers
    • Three 6-year-olds, three 8-year-olds, one 11-year-old, three 12-year-olds
    • I was able to briefly interview the 11 & 12-year olds individually during recess, but had to do a kind of group interview with the younger kids (who were very restless).
  • 1 Harvest Point community member / mother
    • Receives public housing and is on a fixed income named Iman Lewis. I interviewed her during the lunch period and briefly again during the kids’ outside time.
  • 1 Food Bank of South Jersey Bus Stop Café Driver named Chuck.
    • I got the chance to interview him for a few minutes as the kids were eating their lunches on the Bus Stop Café.

How they responded to your prepared and follow-up questions:

  • Initially difficult interviewing the kids, but ended up getting a lot of validation as well as further insight. The main problem that I wanted to get to the bottom of was why most days, it seemed
    • Harvest Point kids enjoyed the lunches while the commuters did not.
      • When asked how they enjoyed the food, the commuters responded with things like “It tastes like dog food” and “It’s disgusting.” The resident children said that they like the food and they wish they could get seconds from the food bus.
      • 2 of the kids also noted that they are sometimes allergic to the food that’s offered. 1 child said he is allergic to chocolate milk and another said that she’s allergic to red dye.
      • When asked how many meals they receive a day, including at home, 4 of the kids said they receive lunch and dinner, while the other 6 said they receive breakfast, lunch, and dinner. When asked why those 4 kids didn’t have breakfast, they said that they either “wake up late” or that their parents don’t make them breakfast.
      • When asked what they’d like to eat for lunch at camp, they mentioned things like Cheese-Itz and popcorn. Of course, they wouldn’t say things like fresh fruits and vegetables, so I followed up with a question asking if they’d eat just that. 3/10 of them said that they hate vegetables and 5 of them said they’d eat the fruit. 1 out of those 5 was really excited and said that he “loves fruit.” The remaining 2 didn’t really want to answer the question, so I didn’t force it.
    • Iman provided a lot of great insight into how the general community feels.
      • When asked if she feels that the Food Bank is appropriately addressing the needs of the community, she said that she herself often goes hungry but can’t receive a meal because she’s older than 18. The Food Bank will only provide meals to children under 18 or those 21 and under with a mental disability.
      • “The community doesn’t know that the bus comes through here, they put up these signs where no one can see them.” The Food Bank has placed 1 sign advertising their free meals for kids but that sign doesn’t have any information about where to get the meals, what time, or who is eligble.
      • She also mentioned that the general community does not know that the free meals provided for the campers are also available to non-camp kids.
      • I proposed to her the solution of getting free fresh foods from a local farmer and she said that it could help and it’s definitely something she would take advantage of. The community center currently receives donated fruits and vegetables on a weekly basis, and community members are allowed to come in and take what they want.
    • Bus Driver provided valuable insight
      • When asked if he felt that the FBSJ was appropriately addressing the needs of the community, he said “They (the kids) wouldn’t eat if we didn’t show up… but the program isn’t perfect.” Surprisingly, he had a lot of negative things to say about the organization and made it completely clear that he’s not a part of the planning in any way. “I just deliver the food.”
      • One very surprising thing that he said was “We’ve even run out of food at certain sites.” The Food Bus makes 3 other stops after leaving Harvest Point Apartments and he said that by the time he gets to the last stop, he is able to feed the kids that belong to that camp site, but if there are kids from the general community that come to the bus, he often comes up short on meals. When asked why that might be is that the FBSJ doesn’t truly know how many people are hungry and is basically “guessing” at how many meals to prepare and deliver. He said that they do pack extra meals in case any spoil or break open during the trip, but he said that “that’s not nearly enough.”
      • His opinion is that the “planners and dispatchers are so far removed. They should take a ride on the bus and see what it’s actually like.”
      • The kids don’t have options for lunch/snack. “They get what they get.” He noted that the lunches are prepackaged an hour away at the FBSJ facility and that there are no alternative options provided. Whatever is prepared in each lunch bag is all that the kids get to eat. If they receive a strawberry milk and are either allergic or just don’t like it, their next option is the juice box that comes with the lunch. If they’re allergic/don’t drink that either, then they are out of luck.
      • The last thing he left me with is that the bus program is a “pilot program” and that he hopes they can work out the kinks.


New Insights

  • Kids often go hungry throughout the day, not just during camp time and not just during the summer. There is a huge need not being met on the weekends since the Food Bus only comes around Mon-Fri.
  • The kids that lived in that community said that they go hungry while the commuters said that they do not.
  • For any kid that either doesn’t like or is allergic to a specific food item, they miss out on certain food groups that the Food Bank is attempting to ensure that they get. My solution needs to make sure to account for this problem and not just make assumptions that the kids will simply eat what they are given since its free.
  • My target customer should be increased from just the kids in the community to all of the families within the community, since I learned that it isn’t just the kids who are going hungry. This was a very important discovery.
  • I learned a lot more about the problem (which was validated), but now understand that there’s a lot more research that needs to be done. It was very difficult interviewing the younger kids since they wanted to get back to playing with their friends and, understandably, they got bored. For my next interview, I’ll make sure to include more community members since I only got to talk to one and she pointed out that its not just the kids who are going hungry. I was luck to have been able to speak with her and the bus driver, I had only planned on interviewing the kids.
  • I had initially thought about starting my own program to address all of these needs, but it might be smarter to work with the Food Bank to create more impactful programs and services. I think that that is definitely still entrepreneurial and I’m sure that they’d enjoy being able to benefit from using things like that the Business Model Canvas.

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