Using Peer Pressure for Good

Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida has been awarded a $100,000 grant from Walt Disney World Foundation to build upon the success of the School Market program to reach one of Central Florida’s most vulnerable populations: teenagers.

Second Harvest’s School Market Program is designed to provide students in middle school and high school with stigma-free access to food resources through student empowerment and open participation. The program is currently completing its pilot year and is operating at 10 local schools.

All students in the participating school have access to shelf-stable snacks, individual-sized meals, and family-sized items. In addition, a Fresh Market happens once each month to distribute fresh fruits and vegetables to students.

Why Target Teens at School

Teens are rarely just teens. Many are learning how to be responsible adults by working, completing chores at home, caring for younger siblings or making dinner, among other tasks. For many others, however, they take on the additional responsibilities of being an extra adult in the home.

Whether it’s because household adults work multiple jobs or the teen is emancipated and on their own, the burden of being a “young” adult makes low-income teens at high risk of being overwhelmed by home and school responsibilities. Therefore, to reach teens in need of healthy, nutritious food, we need to go where they are: school.

Moving Beyond the First Year

As part of evaluating the first year of the School Market program, a survey of School and Fresh Market participants revealed three key findings:

  • The strongest form of advertising the market is through word-of-mouth.
  • Only 25% of School Market participants also participated in the Fresh Market.
  • 80% of the students surveyed want more nutrition information at the markets.

Using these results, Second Harvest Food Bank developed a Teen Nutrition Team (TNT). Thanks to funding by the Walt Disney World Foundation, through a 1-year, paid internship, 12 high school students from 6 high schools in the School Market Program will be offered a spot on the Teen Nutrition Team.

During the summer, these teens will learn about the different elements of being a nutrition educator and will participate in professional development activities. During the school year, the TNT interns will return to their respective school in pairs to be Peer Nutrition Educators.

Once-a-month, the interns will work with the School Market Program Manager to coordinate the Fresh Market and create a lesson or activity to present to their classmates on Fresh Market day. The interns will also create educational materials for the School Market, which may include nudges, posters, brochures or nutrition demonstrations.

An Out of This World Celebration

Disney surprised Second Harvest Food Bank staff and board members with a Toy Story-themed celebration and ceremony that took fighting hunger “to infinity and beyond!”

Keep in touch with the Teen Nutrition Team this summer on our blog.

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