A girl at SummerBoost Camp in West Virginia

Save the Children Innovation Lab to Launch Food Access Solutions for Rural Kids

Global Nonprofit Announces Rural Child Hunger Research and Innovation Lab Grant Recipients, Food Security Projects across Five States

FAIRFIELD, Conn. (Jan. 18, 2023) — With existing child hunger solutions not fully addressing the unique challenges facing rural communities, Save the Children today announces five new, innovative projects that will work to reduce child food insecurity in some of rural America’s hardest-to-reach, most impoverished communities. Led by community organizations across five states, the projects have been selected and funded by Save the Children’s newly-launched Rural Child Hunger Research and Innovation Lab, and will begin implementing in the coming months.

Nearly 90 percent of counties with the highest food insecurity rates are rural, and 1 in 5 rural children are facing hunger. Save the Children launched the Innovation Lab this past fall, to cultivate game-changing ideas into large-scale solutions that work to eliminate child hunger across rural America, ensuring kids have regular access to nourishing food. At the time of the September launch, Save the Children initiated the Lab’s first annual open call for innovative ideas from community organizations across the country. The five selected community organizations – or 2023 lab grantees – were chosen after more than 100 organizations expressed interest in participating.

“Geographic isolation, lack of transportation, and limited access to stores with fresh food are making it very difficult for many rural families to give their children the nutritious meals they need to grow and develop,” said Betsy Zorio, Vice President of U.S. Programs for Save the Children. “Rural community organizations and leaders across the country are rising to meet the challenge of food insecurity in their communities every day. With the Rural Child Hunger Research and Innovation Lab, Save the Children wants to inspire and embolden these organizations and leaders, to help make food more accessible, affordable and dignified for rural families nationwide. We are excited to bring the inventive ideas of the 2023 lab grantees to life, to help ensure rural America’s kids get the nourishing food they need to thrive as learners and in life.”

Save the Children’s partnership with the Innovative Lab grant recipients includes providing the funding to design, test, pilot and incubate their innovative ideas. In addition, the Baylor Collaborative on Hunger and Poverty will evaluate the initial implementation of the chosen projects.

The five community organizations selected to each receive $100,000 in Innovation Lab grant funding for their innovative projects are:

  • Bidii Baby Foods in New Mexico, which will be working to increase supply of local and traditional foods in the Navajo Nation through a farmer-in-residence mentorship, land-based learning, farm-to-school sales, coalition building and advocacy.
  • "Bidii Baby Foods is thrilled to have this opportunity with Save the Children to increase access to indigenous foods in our tribal community, in early childhood and beyond," said Zachariah Ben, owner and co-founder of Bidii Baby Foods."
  • Delta Fresh Foods Initiative in Mississippi, which will be working to increase food justice and youth empowerment in the Mississippi Delta, through a farming and health education partnership with a local physician.
  • "The Delta Fresh Foods Initiative (DFFI) board members, staff and youth ambassadors, along with the Bolivar County community, are excited for this funding,” said Chris Johnson, DFFI’s Farm Manager. “The Innovation Lab resources provided by Save the Children will assist in furthering the mission of DFFI around food security. This funding gives DFFI the opportunity to further engage the community in the work through the outdoors demonstration kitchen and demonstration farm."
  • Mountaineer Food Bank in West Virginia, which will help Mercer County, W.V., families access fresh and shelf-stable foods through home deliveries by a ride-share service.
  • "The $100,000 grant funding from Save the Children will help improve food access barriers across rural communities in West Virginia," said Chad Morrison, CEO of Mountaineer Food Bank. "We are incredibly grateful to receive these funds, as it will help us better serve our food insecure neighbors, children, and families."
  • Southern Carolina Housing in North Carolina, which will be helping distribute fresh, affordable groceries to Robeson County, N.C. housing authority communities, where traditional groceries are hard to reach. The groceries will be initiated through a pay-what-you-can mobile service. "We are thankful for this opportunity to not only help public housing residents, but we will be able to help combat food insecurities within the county as a whole – improving the quality of life for our residents and the place they call home," said Colton Allen Oxendine, a Resident Services Director representing Southern Carolina Housing.
  • San Diego Hunger Coalition in California, which will be working in the rural Mountain Empire region to raise awareness of how to access and influence local food assistance, through Hunger Free Navigator training and resources. It will also be working to increase CalFresh (SNAP/Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) participation through school engagement, and planning for a 2024 home delivery program.
  • "We are honored to be selected by Save the Children for the incredible opportunity to be part of their Rural Child Hunger Research & Innovation Lab. With support and guidance from Save the Children and Baylor University, San Diego Hunger Coalition will be able to build upon and expand our collaborative work in the rural Mountain Empire region of San Diego County, where more than 1 in 3 people are living in poverty," saidAnahid Brakke, President & CEO of the San Diego Hunger Coalition. "We are particularly excited about the possibility of bringing Baylor University’s successful Meals to You summer food program to the region, with the goal of scaling it up to reach all children in San Diego County’s rural communities."

The Innovation Lab grant recipients will gather for a three-day incubation workshop next week, Jan. 24-26, in Waco, Texas, to help refine their ideas before they begin implementing the programming in the coming months. They will also receive ongoing support from a team specialized in rural child hunger, and a community of peers addressing similar challenges.

The Innovation Lab will initiate its next annual open call for innovative ideas later this year. To learn more, go to www.RuralHungerInnovation.org

Save the Children believes every child deserves a future. Since our founding more than 100 years ago, we've been advocating for the rights of children worldwide. In the United States and around the world, we give children a healthy start in life, the opportunity to learn and protection from harm. We do whatever it takes for children – every day and in times of crisis – transforming the future we share. Our results, financial statements and charity ratings reaffirm that Save the Children is a charity you can trust. Follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube.


Thank you for signing up! Now, you’ll be among the first to know how Save the Children is responding to the most urgent needs of children, every day and in times of crisis—and how your support can make a difference. You may opt-out at any time by clicking "unsubscribe" at the bottom of any email.

By providing my mobile phone number, I agree to receive recurring text messages from Save the Children (48188) and phone calls with opportunities to donate and ways to engage in our mission to support children around the world. Text STOP to opt-out, HELP for info. Message & data rates may apply. View our Privacy Policy at savethechildren.org/privacy.