Building Better Schools: Connecting Kids to Meals CEO has been nationally recognized

Published: Jan. 17, 2023 at 5:32 PM EST
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TOLEDO, Ohio (WTVG) - A local champion for children is being recognized on a national platform for her efforts to reduce child hunger.

Wendi Huntley, CEO of Connecting Kids to Meals, has dedicated her will, time, and efforts to keeping children fed after school hours and during the summer.

As a result of her dedication, Huntley is now the first from Ohio to be named a member of the No Kid Hungry’s Out of School Time Meals Champion National Cohort. She is now one of 12 professionals recognized for their work to end hunger in their communities through summer and after-school meal programs.

According to Borgen Project Research, 22 million kids qualify for free and reduced lunch in the United States. Research further shows that students with economically challenged households tend to lag behind academically.

Huntley said she and her team have noticed that partners facilitating after-school and summer programs can keep children engaged when they’re fed.

“...those partners trying to do their education enrichment or fun activities, they’re able to get the kids more engaged because kids are able to learn and they’re able to focus,” she said.

Huntley said being named a cohort member may provide access to national funding to further assist with Connecting Kids to Meals’ mission.

“This is a different game, this is national. So now you’re talking about when we go after national funding, and we talk and have conversations with our national representatives at USDA, our congressional representatives, they’re going to take notice because we’re now in a very elite group that’s being recognized as the teachers that can teach others what’s best for after school meal programs,” Huntley said.

The cohort seeks to ensure no child goes without three healthy meals each day.

Huntley said she is most grateful for the community’s support, as she credits the greater Toledo area for the organization’s impact.

“We are grateful to our community because without our community, our volunteers, our funders, our partners we can’t do this work. So we are grateful because they’re the ones that are actually putting us into this position,” Huntley said she is especially grateful for her staff who works effortlessly alongside her. “Of course you know I’m not going to fail to mention my amazing staff members and my committee board members. It takes everyone to make this happen,” she said.

Huntley hopes that this new membership will show the community the importance of unity.

“I talk about this all the time but this is one instance where we know, and we can see when everyone pulls together, we can actually do some amazing things and reach heights that maybe folks in Toledo didn’t think we could reach,” Huntley said.

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