It was a long-awaited, much-anticipated celebration of progress on Apr. 7 when the Kids Cafe program opened the doors to its new meal preparation facility at the St. Mary’s Food Bank Alliance Surprise facility.
The Kids Cafe program provides an important after school meal for at-risk kids who receive breakfast and lunch at school but in many cases don’t have a dinner meal waiting for them at home. One in four children in Arizona today are living in poverty, amounting to more than 260,000 children in Maricopa Country alone. Kids Cafe seeks to feed as many school-age children as possible.
“This expansion has been years in the making, and we’re very excited that the day is finally here,” said Laura Brill, Kids Cafe program manager. “The statistics of childhood hunger in Arizona are disturbing and unacceptable. This is the future of Arizona, and we feel like we need to invest now.”
What was a 200-square-foot area for volunteers to make sandwiches has expanded to an 8,500-square-foot facility that will allow the program to immediately expand from the current level of 1,700 meals per day to 3,000 by this summer and 4,000 by the end of 2011. The ultimate goal is to reach 8,000 to 10,000 meals by 2013, with the introduction of hot meals for the first time.
Currently, about 40 volunteers prepare the sandwiches, fruits and vegetables for the daily Kids Cafe meals. But more volunteers are now needed to keep up with expansion and to perform site-checks for future program sites. Anyone interested in volunteering should call Grace Rodil at (602) 343-5629 or Melissa Jensen at (602) 647-1820.