Apr 09, 2024 Press Release

Robin Hood Awards Nearly $3M in Final Prizes to FUEL For 50 Challenge Winners

Robin Hood’s landmark FUEL for 50 challenge has funded 50 organizations over three years to spur innovation in early learning for children living in poverty; finalists Chances for Children, FamilyCook Productions, and Forestdale will receive nearly $1 million each to scale impactful, community-led programs for children ages 0-3

NEW YORK Robin Hood, New York’s largest local poverty-fighting philanthropy, today announced three grand prize winners of FUEL for 50, the three-year $10 million initiative to support learning and development for young children living in poverty through programs focused on their caregivers. Chances for Children, FamilyCook Productions, and Forestdale have advanced from an initial cohort of 50 organizations to win the challenge for their uniquely promising, innovative, and community-led approaches to early learning. Their missions are grounded in parent-child therapy, family nutrition, and healing intergenerational trauma, respectively.

“Congratulations to the winners of FUEL for 50. Our winners have spent the past three years developing innovative, evidence-based programs that will uplift New York City families for years to come. At Robin Hood, we recognize that the most impactful poverty-fighting investments we can make take place during children’s first years of life. By supporting our youngest New Yorkers, as well as their parents and caregivers, we help make New York City the best place in the world to grow up and expand opportunities for the most vulnerable New Yorkers,” said Richard R. Buery, Jr., CEO of Robin Hood.

Today, 2 million New Yorkers are living in poverty – a quarter of them are children, and well over 120,000 are under three years old. In order to have a fair shot at lifelong success, these vulnerable infants and toddlers must meet important health, cognitive, language, and socio-emotional milestones during their most critical years of brain development. However, the city’s lack of affordable childcare exacerbates the difficulty in reaching them—64% of New Yorkers live in childcare deserts and for every five infants, there is only one open childcare slot citywide. Additionally, the care that young children experiencing poverty receive can be highly variable and profoundly affected by the stressors and trauma of a family facing economic setbacks.

In response, the FUEL for 50 challenge mobilized the community to give infants and toddlers the strongest possible start in life, and a real chance to escape poverty and thrive. With an understanding parents and caregivers are children’s first teachers, all awardees have been on a three-year journey, receiving phased funding, support for program development and capacity building, and fostering connections with other nonprofits and early childhood experts. Robin Hood’s Fund for Early Learning (FUEL) is working to transform New York City into an early-learning metropolis, where every interaction has a positive effect on a child’s long-term well-being – no matter where and how they receive care.

Meet the Winners

Chances for Children provides parent-child therapy and group programs in English and Spanish to families with children from birth to age 5 and expectant mothers. Their rigorously evaluated therapeutic model prioritizes infant and toddler mental health by enhancing parent-child relationships.

FamilyCook Productions provides immersive, hands-on culinary and nutrition education for young children and families in schools and through community organizations. Willow, a lovable bunny and hand puppet, is at the center of their “Nibble with Willow” program, which brings fun, discovery and bonding to healthy family meals.

Forestdale offers a comprehensive suite of “Cradle-to-Launch” services to heal different types of intergenerational trauma and ensure children are off to a healthy start. Their evidence-based and holistic approach focuses on building strong relationships and parenting skills for system-involved families.

“Through parent-child psychotherapy, Chances for Children strengthens early relationships, increasing sensitivity and building the protective shield children need to thrive as they learn and grow,” said Silvia Juarez-Marazzo, Co-Executive Director Clinical of Chances for Children. “With support from FUEL for 50, we’ve already expanded our reach by more than 25%, and this investment will help us build the infrastructure to multiply our impact within the Bronx.”

“At Forestdale, we provide an array of mental health services to bring stability and healing to system-impacted families with young children. FUEL for 50 has been instrumental in helping us refine our approach, ensuring the right supports reach the right families at the right time,” said William Weisberg, Executive Director of Forestdale. “This additional funding will allow us to train additional staff and collaborate with partner agencies, dramatically expanding our impact over the years to come.”

“The impact of ‘Nibble with Willow’ helps transform mealtime from a source of stress to an opportunity for learning and discovery of healthy food, setting a lifelong foundation for children,” said Lynn Fredericks, Founder and President of FamilyCook Productions. “This award will enable us to expand our programming and bring Willow to more families across New York City.”

The early years of a child’s life are pivotal, shaping their future trajectory and lifetime outcomes with one million new neural connections forming every second and the stronger the neural network, the better positioned children are for learning in school and succeeding far beyond the classroom. Evidence shows that intervening in early childhood can break the cycle of poverty. Investing in children’s health and development early yields long-term benefits, including higher graduation rates, reduced involvement in the criminal justice system, and improved mental health. Learning for infants and toddlers extends beyond classrooms; all experiences and relationships shape brain development. By alleviating caregiver stress, fostering nurturing relationships, and promoting skills like self-regulation, we can profoundly impact young children’s learning and development. Robin Hood’s commitment to New York’s families drives our efforts to support community organizations serving young children, ensuring they receive the best possible start in life.

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About Robin Hood

Robin Hood is New York’s largest local poverty-fighting philanthropy. Last year, Robin Hood celebrated its 35th year of funding, supporting, and connecting New York’s most impactful community organizations at the forefront in the battle against poverty. We are NYC’s largest local poverty-fighting philanthropy and since 1988, we have invested nearly $3 billion to elevate and fuel the permanent escape of New Yorkers from poverty. In 2023, through grantmaking with nearly 300 community partners, we created pathways to opportunities out of poverty through our strategic partnerships on childcare, child poverty, jobs, and living wages. We are scaling impact at a population level for the 2 million New Yorkers living in poverty. At Robin Hood, we believe your starting point in life should not define where you end up. To learn more about our work and impact, follow us on X (formerly known as Twitter) @RobinHoodNYC or go to robinhood.org.


Crystal Cooper, Deputy Director of Communications


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