With the federal government shutdown so far lasting nearly two weeks, 1,500 children a day in Missouri are at risk of going hungry, the Kansas City area’s largest food bank says.
By MARÁ ROSE WILLIAMS
The Kansas City Star
Harvesters announced Friday that its Kids Cafe program, which distributes more than 7,000 meals a week to schools and agencies that provide after-school lunches to children ages 1 to 18, hasn’t been funded for nearly two weeks.
Because of the shutdown, reimbursement to operate the $22,000-a-week program stopped Oct. 1. Kids Cafe is funded through the federal Child and Adult Care Food Program. That money is funneled through the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services.
“As a temporary solution, Harvesters has been providing the children with sack lunches donated through the Give Lunch program,” said Valerie Nicholson-Watson, president and CEO at Harvesters.
Give Lunch, another Harvesters program supported by its corporate partners, normally supplies high schools with extra lunches for low-income children whose parents have not applied for free or reduced-price lunches.
While the sack lunch program is feeding the Kids Cafe children, those relying on a free sack lunch are without. But come next Friday, even “the inventory of sack lunches will be exhausted,” Nicholson-Watson said.
She said the problem is affecting only the 25 Missouri Kids Cafe sites — primarily children in Kansas City Public Schools. The cafes in Kansas are making ends meet.
Harvesters is pleading for the community to help with food and dollar donations to keep Kids Cafe going and replenish the food supply for Give Lunch.
“For many of these children, it is the only meal they get,” said Nicholson-Watson.
At Southwest Early College Campus on Wornall Road, where 89 percent of children get free or reduced-price lunches, Kids Cafe feeds about 130 students a day, said principal Edwin Richardson.
“It is difficult for kids to concentrate or focus on schoolwork if they have hunger to contend with every day,” Richardson said. “To see a program like this one go by the wayside is just heartbreaking.”
He said every time he’s had to talk with a student who has been disruptive in school, “the first thing I ask them is, have you eaten, had something to drink today? I have not once had a student tell me they had breakfast,” Richardson said. “As soon as they have eaten, their attitude, behavior changes.”
For more information about contributing, go to www.harvesters.org.
To reach Mará Rose Williams, call 816-234-4419 or send email to email@example.com.