(BLOOMINGTON) – Bloomington Parks and Recreation Department’s Banneker Community Center has received a grant to develop a “Nutrition Hub,” defined by the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA) as “a trusted gathering place that provides access to affordable healthy foods and essential nutrition supports and services that reduce food insecurity, strengthen healthy foods decision making, and improve health outcomes”.
The NRPA, in cooperation with the Walmart Foundation, awarded the Banneker Community Center an $80,000 “Parks as Community Nutrition Hubs: Expanding Access to Healthy Food” grant in May. Banneker staff will collaborate with other food agencies in the community to expand nutrition services, provide access to affordable, healthy food, and reduce food insecurity.
The Banneker Community Center has served as a Indiana Summer Food Service Program site for more than 15 years, when Banneker joined the Monroe County Community School Corporation and Community Kitchen in providing sites where children out of school for the summer could go to get a free, nutritious meal. The summer food service program at Banneker morphed over the years into a low-cost camp that offered nature and education programming, structured games, and activity clubs in addition to healthy meals. Banneker served 4,964 free meals to children in 2019, and joined the Hoosier Hills Food Bank in June 2019 to provide 12,892 additional meals.
Banneker Facility/Program Coordinator Erik Pearson said, “We are grateful for the recognition from NRPA, and for the opportunity to work with other organizations to connect underserved residents with more nutrition and wellness resources. It’s yet another example of what our community can accomplish when we work together.”
The Banneker Community Center was one of 15 agencies nationwide to receive a Parks as Community Nutrition Hubs grant.
The grant award comes on the heels of a $199,600 Regional Opportunity Initiatives, Inc. grant to the Bloomington Parks Foundation on behalf of the Banneker Center. Awarded in 2019, the grant funds allowed the Banneker Community Center to completely renovate its kitchen space, add new furniture throughout the building, acquire a minibus to transport program participants, and enhance its youth and teen programming options with the purchase of iPads and a video projector and screen. These significant upgrades, coupled with Banneker’s status as a community hub, positioned the facility as an ideal recipient of the NRPA grant that will help Banneker continue to provide more quality services to underserved populations.
The Banneker Community Center plans to continue its summer food program for youth and families this summer, in spite of COVID-19 restrictions that forced the cancellation of its usual summer camp. Pearson said the Banneker Community Center has secured funding as a part of the Indiana Summer Food Service Program to create “Banneker Camp On-The-Go,” a free service that will deliver nutritious breakfasts and dinners, along with engaging activity packets, directly to up to 100 program participants per week.
“We are thankful for the support we have received for Banneker Camp On-The-Go, and are thrilled to be able to continue to serve families by providing both food and activity options this summer,” Pearson said.
Weekly registration for the Banneker Camp On-The-Go can be found on the Banneker Community Center website at bloomington.in.gov/banneker, as well as on the Banneker Community Center’s Facebook page.
For more information about the Parks as Community Nutrition Hubs grant, or the Banneker Camp On-The-Go free meal and activity delivery program, contact Erik Pearson at the Banneker Community Center, 812-349-3735.