At Feeding the Valley Food Bank, which serves the Chattahoochee Valley in Georgia and Alabama, we operate a robust Kids Cafe program year round. The program is desperately needed in our area – we have an unacceptable 35.4 percent childhood poverty rate. That means 1 in 3 children live in poverty.
At our Kids Cafes – which include several in Georgia and one in Alabama – we serve children hot, nutritious meals cooked in our food bank’s state-of-the-art commercial kitchen. In a typical school year, we serve 925 children five days a week and another 250 two days a week. In the summertime, that number swells, as families can no longer access the free and reduced-cost school meals they relied on during the year. An additional 600 children visit our Kids Cafes in the summertime, which means we serve 1,775 children five days a week. But there are still many children we aren’t reaching.
Recently, Feeding the Valley Food Bank received a generous grant from PwC Charitable Foundation. With those funds, we hope to reach more children in need through our Kids Cafe. With support from the grant, our food bank aims to permanently expand our Kids Cafe program to reach an additional 200 children in need by setting up new Kids Cafe sites in presently unserved counties.
Our rationale for choosing to expand our Kids Cafe Program is straightforward – no other childhood hunger-relief program has worked as well in reaching the children who need it most, and getting food to children facing hunger is critical to their development. By offering meals in the summer and during the school year to food-insecure children, we are providing them with the nutritious food they need to learn, grow and thrive. No child should have to worry about where their next meal is coming from, and thanks to the grant from PwC Charitable Foundation, hopefully an extra 200 children in our service area won’t have to.
*Frank Sheppard has been involved at Feeding the Valley for 11 years - nine as an officer on its Board of Directors before assuming his current role as president and CEO. He also serves on the board of the local Emergency Food and Shelter Board and the United Way Executive Directors' Association.
**Photos courtesy of Feeding the Valley Food Bank.