Summer Meals at Kids Kitchen
When the summer months start, so do the rumbling bellies for many kids. Although summer is the time of year for fun, it’s also the time of year families using free or reduced-price school lunches lose that support. The Monticello Help Center is filling that gap.
Originally started by a group of concerned church goers in 1974, the food shelf and clothing center has expanded to include a “kids kitchen.”
“[We saw] the need of filling the missing meals during the summer when the kids are off and not getting their free lunches or breakfasts,” Sandy, Monticello Help Center’s director, said. “We got some grant money and we provided just a small box of food and then a little bag of cold items.”
In the beginning, families with children two to 18 years of age were able to get this extra assistance once a month. Today, the Kids Kitchen has moved locations twice and now provides food once a week to nearly 100 kids.
“We moved from an elementary school to the high school and what’s better about this space is that it’s got more storage still and a little more accessibility for our clients,” Sandy said. “We went from serving about 25 kids once a month, to about 100 kids once a week. So it was a big, big increase.”
With the increase in storage and mouths to feed, Sandy says the Kids Kitchen’s amount of produce delivered to clients has also increased from about 20-25 pounds per student to double that amount.
Sandy’s also hoping that this move will make the center’s older kids feel more comfortable with asking for help.
“We know that we’re serving mostly the elementary [schools], but we know that there are students out there in the middle and high school that are not receiving the free and reduced-price lunches, partially because they don’t want to, even though they’re eligible,” she explained. “We’re hoping that maybe some of those families, or some of those students themselves, will be willing to come there and pick up some food.”
Sandy says that the parents they have helped thus far have been very grateful for the service that the Monticello Help Center is providing.
“Many, many people will say to us: ‘We didn’t know what we were going to do, we didn’t know how we were going to feed our kids this summer, and now we know we can feed our kids,’” she said.
Monticello Help Center plans on helping families until everyone in the community is fed and is thankful for the support of the community partners and volunteers that make achieving their mission possible.
“Our hope is that we’re reaching all of the students that we need to reach; that’s kind of our goal. We don’t want to be missing anybody that needs food,” Sandy said. “Our mission is to eliminate hunger in the community and that’s our mission period. For this particular program, it’s to eliminate hunger with the children.”
Nearly all of the food distributed at the Kids Kitchen program and at food shelf comes from Second Harvest Heartland.
Learn more about the Monticello Help Center and their Kids Kitchen program by visiting monticellohelpcenter.org.