1 in 6 children face hunger in Kansas. The summer months are particularly hard for those who rely on free or reduced-cost lunches during the school year. Seven years ago, Catholic Charities of Northeast Kansas launched the Kids Summer Food Program to help address this issue of food insecurity. Since then, the need and the program have continued to grow. This year, 45,852 nutritious meals were served at 32 sites across 21 counties!
This summer, we reached more families through innovative ways to ensure children had access to healthy meals. Due to Covid-19, sites operated as drive-thru locations, meal pick-up places, congregate meal sites, and as part of our resource bus route. This allowed sites that were closed last year to join us again for another summer. Through community partnerships with libraries, churches, and other local organizations, meals were available to any child 18 years and younger.
At one of our new library sites, our community partners initially provided snacks for children because kids would spend all day there. Halfway through the summer, they became a Kids Summer Food site, distributing healthy sack lunches. As one of our site coordinators said, “The library is a safe place – children can read, stay, and have something to eat.”
Chanel Griffin, Catholic Charities’ Food and Nutrition Coordinator, was pleased with the program’s impact. “We didn’t know what this summer would look like due to Covid-19, but we were able to have another successful year!” she said. “Our site coordinators, volunteers, and Summer Food Interns were extraordinary. They truly love their communities and the kids that they served. Multiple sites extended their meal service due to the need and requests from local families. Though this summer was unique, we had the capacity to grow and were ready to fill in the gaps. Each meal represented a child, and each child has a story that we got to play a role in for a healthier future.”