In 2014, Causewave began working closely with Rochester’s Summer Meals program, with the goal of ensuring that every child and youth in the City of Rochester has access to free and healthy summer meals.

The Need

In the Rochester City School District, 82% of students qualify for free and reduced-price meals.

Causewave began working on the project shortly after the Center for Governmental Research completed a needs assessment, which found:

  • Nearly 21,000 RCSD students participated in the free and reduced-price school lunch program in 2012.
  • Only 4,750 students participated in Summer Meals.
  • Leaving a gap of approximately 16,000 students.

Our Approach

To close that gap, Causewave has been working to increase awareness of summer meals among school officials, parents, other family members, and community groups. We also collaborate closely with other partners to support projects that make the Summer Meals program more appealing, empowering, accessible, and efficient.


Innovative new ways to distribute Summer Meals

In 2016, we helped launch a “mobile meals” pilot, which brought Summer Meals directly to four locations where young people already gather, play, and learn during the summer months. The pilot succeeded in attracting more kids to eat meals provided, and this year grew to ten locations, including libraries, parks, and other community sites.

New mobile and user-friendly website

To ensure children and parents can easily find the closest Summer Meals site, we developed a new website that treats kids and parents respectfully as customers – quickly answering questions about locations, menus, and eligibility.

Collaboration and alignment of partners

The Summer Meals Partnership of Rochester includes numerous nonprofits and government agencies who partner to provide meals and promote the program. In partnership with Common Ground Health and the Community Foundation, Causewave helps to quarterback this group’s joint efforts that ensure the program operates seamlessly. Now delivery routes are now efficiently aligned, decisions about new site locations are made strategically, and participants can expect similar positive experiences at all sites.

Summer Meals participation is up 24% over the last 3 years.

Our most recent data shows:

Not only do we have a dedicated staff person from Causewave to help us implement our marketing plan, but Causewave has been a partner in helping us analyze our communications. To ask: Who’s missing from the table? What conversations do we need to be having throughout the community? It’s more than marketing. It’s experts from so many areas.
— Dina Faticone, Director of Community Health and Engagement at Common Ground Health

This success story has a cascading effect: Positive experiences children and youth. Less-stressed parents. Students who retain more of what they learn. Lower obesity rates. Better outcomes for the next generation.

So much good begins with you.

We couldn't do this work alone: a broad coalition of donors, foundations, and volunteers have made countless critical contributions to this important project. Staff and volunteers at partner organizations show extraordinary dedication to the goals. It’s a testament to the spirit of community that sets Greater Rochester apart.

Primary partners: Foodlink, Rochester City School District (RCSD), City of Rochester, Common Ground Health, Rochester Area Community Foundation (RACF)

Summer Meals Partnership of Rochester members: Common Ground Health, Foodlink, RCSD, City of Rochester, RACF, Horizons, YMCA, Youth Voice One Vision, Kids Thrive 585, Law NY, Children's Agenda, Urban League, Hunger Solution