2014 Childhood Hunger Challenge

The Social Innovation Challenge is part of our larger initiative focusing on childhood hunger. On any given night there are 100,000 hungry children in the Triangle. Additionally, thousands more toddlers, children who are not yet school age, and homeless youths lack regular access to food. Twenty percent of children in Wake, Orange, Johnston, and Durham counties are food insecure—they do not know where their next meal is coming from.

United Way of the Greater Triangle decided to mobilize the community around the issue of childhood hunger and invite everyone to work with us to help find solutions for this issue through our first Social Innovation Challenge. Our goal for the Challenge was to get more people to innovate, develop, and scale high-impact ideas designed to address childhood hunger.  We also wanted to engage the community in a new way–by asking for their help in developing the next innovation in solving this issue.

All of the entries had a chance to win the top award– $50,000 of funding from the United Way of the Greater Triangle and access to an entrepreneur support staff and network from our partner Bull City Forward. All of our entries were judged on five criteria—social impact, break-through potential, feasibility, sustainability, and scalability—along with their plan for how to use the $50,000 funding award, if they were chosen.

With a quick month and a half timeline for people to submit applications, we received 40 applications from a variety of people looking at the problem of childhood hunger in different ways.

The four finalists included:

  • Durham Public School System to innovate the way breakfast reaches students
  • A new way to engage shoppers with Pennies 4 Progress developed by NC State students
  • Grocers on Wheels, a creative idea to overcome food deserts
  • Urban Ministries of Wake County partnered with two socially-conscious entrepreneurs to create efficiencies by streamlining food distribution


The Child Nutrition Services of Durham Public Schools was selected by a panel of five judges to receive the $50,000 award in the Social Innovation Challenge—100,000 Kids Hungry No More. Their innovative approach to delivering breakfast to all students will enable more students to receive a morning meal, eliminate the stigma associated with “free and reduced cost meals,” and directly impact educational success.

“This is a win for the students,” said Jim Keaten, executive director of Child Nutrition Services at Durham Public Schools. “Child Nutrition Services is a self-funded operation that does not receive funding from the district, the city, the county or the state. Without grants like this one, we would be unable to provide these services to students.”

“We are excited to partner with Child Nutrition Services in an initiative that will have an immediate impact on children,” said Mack Koonce, president and CEO of United Way of the Greater Triangle. “By making breakfast free for all students and delivering meals to classrooms, this investment will impact over 2,500 students immediately with expected growth over three years to impact 25,000 students daily.”

With the award, Child Nutrition Services plans to outfit five schools with equipment that will allow for breakfast in the classroom, second chance breakfast, grab and go meals, and food kiosks.

More resources related to the Social Innovation Challenge can be found here.

If you are interested in sponsoring the Social Innovation Challenge, contact Cassie Proper.