We have hungry families in Pulaski County and not just those who live on the other side of the tracks. We have hungry students…and children at UALR and at PTC, and at every college in our county. Sometimes labeled “the working poor,” low-income households headed by one parent are at a much higher risk of food insecurity.
Prior to taking this class I would have never connected the The Rhetorical Triangle with writing a grant. My focus would have been on what the proposed funding could provide for our students. What I learned in this class helped me realize that proposed funding was only one component of a much larger rhetorical picture. Who was I writing to? Were the goals of their organization and the goals of our organization a good match? Was my proposal focused on meeting our needs or meeting theirs? I quickly fell in love with the process and the strategy involved in securing grant funding. As a result of learning the why behind the how, and then connecting the two, I have secured $275,000 through writing successful proposals and as importantly, have gained valuable partners in addressing the issue of food insecurity. As a result, we’ve been able to help students stay in school and finish their degrees instead of working another low paying job to put food on their tables. The individuals at these foundations and corporations are not merely funders or donors– they are our partners. We are working together to address issues and meet common goals, and together, we are making a difference.
There were many valuable key concepts from this course and I refer to my notes often. The key concepts that resonated with me were:
- researching prospective funders
- establishing and nurturing a relationship with a funder prior to submitting a proposal
- organizing documentation for effective grant writing
- the power of collaborative grants
As a direct result of the skills I learned in 5375: Grantwriting, I was able to help hundreds of individuals in our county address the terrible shame of being hungry through writing a successful grant proposal. The food insecurity issue among our population was reduced to zero. Yes, zero. The semesters we had adequate funding every SPSF recipient successfully completed their semester, not one family was hungry, and every family had nutritious food. That translates to a 100% success rate.That is powerful.
As SPSF recipients accessed their scholarship funding I began to see some disturbing trends. Students submitted receipts for frozen pizzas, chips, candies, and cokes and not for healthy food. Students were submitting receipts for food three or four times a week, not once or twice a week. I began observing and making connections between food insecurity, childhood obesity, readiness to learn, and cognitive functioning. I’d also visit with a handful of students every semester who were truly hungry. One student, weeping in my office, shamefully said that her neighbor had been bringing dinner for her and her son for the past week. I began making calls and connecting various resources in our community: food banks; SNAP benefits; budgeting, planning, and cooking education; in hopes that we could solve this issue for our students.
The purpose of the grant proposal to The Walmart Foundation was to provide additional funding for healthy food so our students and their children had the resources needed to provide healthy food that would fuel growing bodies and minds. This proposal was written after a one year focus on educating students through the Cooking Matters and Shopping Matters programs, and providing workshops specifically designed to teach our recipients about the role of nutrition in cognitive and physical development, how to plan a menu, shop for food, use SNAP benefits.
Joint efforts between the Blue and You Foundation of Arkansas, The Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance, Pulaski Technical College, and the No Kid Hungry campaign helped us address food insecurity needs among our high-achieving students. We worked together to coordinate resources that taught students how to plan and cook nutritious meals, how to budget, and how to leverage SNAP/WIC benefits with scholarship dollars. A successful grant proposal to the Blue and You Foundation of Arkansas resulted in each of our recipients receiving cooking utensils, pots and pans, crock-pots, cookbooks, and other tools to enhance and address the issue of food insecurity. After empowering students with practical knowledge and watching them successfully implement their newly acquired skills, I went to the Walmart Foundation to request funding for every student to be reimbursed for healthy food. My original proposal was for each recipient to receive $100 a month in healthy food reimbursement. The accepted proposal provided students reimbursement of healthy food at $350 for a four month period.