Kids Cafe Fights Summer Hunger

This summer, Food Bank for Larimer County’s Kids Cafe is providing free summer meals in Fort Collins, Loveland, Wellington and Estes Park. The Food Bank plans to serve 56,000 meals during June, July and August. Every day in June the Community Kitchen produced:

  • 400 snacks for three locations,
  • 970 lunches for twelve locations,
  • and 150 breakfasts for two locations.

Summer meals give children a chance to access good meals and to try new things that are healthy and tasty.

“Chili Hoagies are a big hit” said Justin Kruger, Food Bank Executive Chef and Community Kitchen Manager, “the spicy chicken taco was very popular on Wednesday.  Our varieties of baked taquitos are all well liked.  The cinnamon sugar tortilla roll-up has been a big breakfast hit.” Justin runs kitchen operations along with Mike DeBonte.

Liz Donovan, Food Bank Programs Manager and registered dietitian, oversees the planning and production of foods every week. All meals and snacks meet or exceed USDA guidelines. Meals are prepared fresh in the Kids Cafe kitchen by volunteers under the supervision of Food Bank staff.

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Food Bank for Larimer Kids Cafe Virtual Tour

This summer, the Food Bank for Larimer County Kids Cafe program will prepare and deliver nearly 1,000 meals per day to 11 sites throughout Larimer County.
Kids Cafe is a national program supported by Feeding America. With a full-time chef and registered dietitian on staff, the focus of Kids Cafe is on nutrition. Meals are cooked from scratch and exceed USDA and National School Lunch nutrition standards.

We partner with several amazing organizations who are providing critical support to children over the summer months. Please take a virtual tour of one of our fantastic partner sites to learn more!

 

Strengthening Child Health and Nutrition by Closing the Summer Meal Gap

little girlThe Child Summer Hunger Gap

Almost 16 million children live in households unable to consistently access enough nutritious food necessary for a healthy life and more than 12 million children in the United States experience obesity. The school breakfast and lunch programs are crucial interventions to combat child hunger and obesity by providing children with consistent access to nutritious and balanced meals. But what happens to those at-risk children during the summer months? While there has been significant progress to ensure low-income kids have access to healthy meals at school, we know that only 16% of those children are accessing nutrition assistance during the summer. This gap in food access harms the health of millions of children whose families do not have additional resources in the summer months. When Congress writes a new child nutrition bill in 2015, we have an important opportunity to invest in child health by investing in feeding kids and closing the summer meal gap.

Nationwide, only 16% of children that receive school lunch access summer meal.

Child Hunger = A Health Crisis

Studies have found that children who face hunger experience greater health and developmental problems.[i] Areas with high food insecurity often also have high obesity rates. Regardless of income, children who face food shortages, compared to those who do not, are more likely to have:

  • frequent stomach and head aches, colds, and increased fatigue[ii]
  • higher risk for chronic health conditions,[iii] such as anemia[iv],[v]
  • higher hospitalization rates[vi] and worse developmental outcomes[vii]
  • frequent instances of oral health problems.[viii]

POLICY RECOMMENDATION TO CLOSE THE SUMMER MEAL GAP: Strengthen communities’ ability to reach children during the summer by allowing community partners to utilize alternate program delivery models. By providing waivers in areas where children are not able to reach a congregate feeding site, community partners can reach children that lack access to a nutritious summer meal.  

Limited Household Budgets = Less Nutritious Foods During the Summer

Low-income families that rely on school meals during the school year are often strained to make ends meet during the summer. This can impact children’s nutrition intake. In the summer months, research shows that hunger for families with school age children increases by 34.2% and that most children – particularly children at high risk of obesity – gain weight more rapidly.[ix] As families struggle to make ends meet, a Feeding America study found that 79 percent of households that access charitable food programs report purchasing inexpensive, unhealthy food to make ends meet.[x]

USDA conducted pilot projects that provided low-income families with a summer grocery card to assist with the increased financial strain in the absence of school meals. Overall, the pilot reduced very low child food security by 33% and increased the nutrition intake among children. When compared to non-participants, kids consumed 12.6% more fruits and vegetables, 29.6% more whole grains, 9.7% more dairy, and 7.5% less sugar-sweetened beverages.[xi]

 POLICY RECOMMENDATION TO CLOSE THE SUMMER MEAL GAP: Allow states the option to provide low-income families with a summer grocery card to purchase the food they need for their children when school lunches and breakfasts are no longer available. USDA pilots have shown this to be an efficient, direct method to ensure children have access to nutritious food in the summer.  

Questions? Contact Eleni Towns, Policy Analyst, at etowns@feedingamerica.org

REFERENCES

[i] Food and Research Center. The Health Consequences of Hunger. http://www.hungeractionnys.org/health6.htm

[ii] Coleman-Jensen, Alisha, William McFall, and Mark Nord. Food Insecurity in Households with Children: Prevalence, Severity, and Household Characteristics, 2010-2011. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service, May 2013, Appendix A.

[iii] Kirkpatrick, McIntyre, and Potestio (2010) Child hunger and long-term adverse consequences for health. Archive of Pediatric Adolescent Medicine, 164 (8), 754-762.

[iv] Eicher-Miller, Mason, Weaver, McCabe, and Boushey (2009) Food Insecurity is associated with iron deficiency anemia in US adolescents. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 90, 1358-1371.

[v] Skalicky, Meyers, Adams, Yang, Cook, and Frank (2006) Child Food Insecurity and Iron Deficiency Anemia in Low-Income Infants and Toddlers in the United States. Maternal and Child Health Journal, 10 (2), 177-185.

[vi] Cook, Frank, Leveson, Neault, Heeren, Black, Berkowitz, Casey, Meyers, Cutts, and Chilton (2006) Child food insecurity increases risks posed by household food insecurity to young children’s health. Journal of Nutrition, 136, 1073-1076.

[vii] Zaslow, Bronte-Tinkew, Capps, Horowitz, Moore, and Weinstein (2008) Food Security During Infancy: Implications for Attachment and Mental Proficiency in Toddlerhood. Maternal and Child Health Journal, 13 (1), 66-80.

[viii] Muirhead, Quiñonez, Figueiredo, and Locker (2009) Oral health disparities and food insecurity in working poor Canadians. Community Dentistry and Oral Epidemiology, 37, 294-304.

[ix] Von Hippel, P.T., B. Powell, D.B. Downey, and n. Rowland. 2007 The effect of school on overweight in childhood: Gains in children’s body mass index during the school year and during the summer vacation. American Journal of Public Health 97 (4): 796-802.

[x] Feeding America, Hunger in America 2014, National Report. August 2014.

[xi] U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Service. Report on the Summer Food for Children Demonstration Projects for Fiscal Year 2013, December 2013.

Kids Cafe Expands Summer Meal Program to Reach More Kids

Kids-Cafe-30Last summer, the Food Bank’s Kids Cafe program created and delivered a record-setting 41,609 meals at sites around Larimer County. The program served roughly 1,000 kids each day. Approximately 650 of those kids attended sites in Fort Collins. According to recent data from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), the Colorado Department of Education and the Hunger Free Colorado, nearly 1,200 additional children are in need of summer feeding services in Fort Collins.

 “This summer, our focus will be on feeding more Fort Collins kids,” said Bruce Wallace, Programs Director. “After seeing the data from the USDA, CDE and Hunger Free Colorado report, we are committed to shrinking that gap.”

To work towards filling that gap, the Food Bank will partner with two new sites, CARE Housing at Peace with Christ Lutheran Church and Mathews House at Genesis Project, in 2015. To help meet increased demand, the Food Bank applied for and received a $15,000 grant from Disney Worldwide Services and a $20,000 from ConAgra. With new sites and additional funding, the Food Bank hopes to feed 500 more children this summer and increase the number of meals served to over 50,000.

Since 2005, the Food Bank for Larimer County’s Kids Cafe program has served free, nutritious meals to low-income children ages 3-18 after school and during the summer. The Food Bank partners with several Larimer County sites where children already congregate, including Boys and Girls Clubs, community centers and schools. In addition to healthy meals, Kids Cafe program sites also offer a safe place, where under the supervision of trustworthy staff, a child can get involved in educational, recreational and social activities.

Volunteers are needed to fill additional shifts in the Kids Cafe kitchen. Learn more here

Cooper Home Culinary Club

In February, IMG_1845the Food Bank launched a new partnership with Poudre School District to host the “Cooper Home Culinary Club.”  Cooper Home helps high school graduates, ages 18-21, transition into their next phase of life by providing opportunities to learn life skills in order to gain independence. Student services include: Job coaching; training in work-related skills; planning menus, grocery shopping and cooking; riding public transportation; and developing organizational skills.

According to Truman Solverud, Cooper Home’s Job Developer/Vocational Paraprofessional,   “One of our primary [program] objectives is to help our students understand their role and context in the community in which they live – responsibility and citizenship. Working at the Food Bank helps our young adults transition from being helped to being the helper.” IMG_1826

Young adults in the Culinary Club work at the Food Bank on Mondays and Wednesdays from 3-5:30 pm. Under the supervision of Food Bank kitchen staff, students learn food preparation, dishwashing, cleaning, portioning and recipe execution. In addition to gaining experience in a commercial kitchen, these students are helping the Food Bank provide meals and snacks for our child nutrition programs. Ultimately, the Culinary Club provides students with basic skills that they can apply to future employment.

“[This program allows] our students also gain valuable experience in the workplace to work towards employability which is an overwhelming challenge for individuals with disabilities in our community, with a national unemployment rate near 85%,” added Truman.