800 Kansas City families in 3 hours: Feed the Children combats summer food insecurity

When school lets out, hundreds of Kansas City children who qualify for free or low-cost school meals often go hungry during the summer.

To bring relief to 800 Kansas City families, the Central Academy of Excellence partnered with Operation Breakthrough to host a Feed the Children food distribution on Tuesday.

The event, which was held on Central’s campus, brought together seven agencies according to Mary Esselman, CEO of Operation Breakthrough.

“There’s something about summer where people aren’t always thinking about food and lack of food,” Esselman said.

“Right now, our pantry at Operation Breakthrough is very empty. So having something like this with Feed the Children is huge.”

The distribution targeted high-need families from throughout the city. Michael Robins, Vice Principal of Central Academy, said many of these families are also refugees and immigrants.

“We actually have an ELL (English Language Learner) hallway here in the school, for summer school. We have a lot of refugees, we have a lot of people from other countries coming into this area,” Robins said.

“It was a team of people who pinpointed and targeted the kids who needed assistance. We got those children together, contacted them and their families, made sure they got vouchers to come out.”

Community partners that worked to identify families in need and provide vouchers included the Kansas City Public Schools, Operation Breakthrough, Palestine Missionary Baptist Church and Macedonia Baptist Church.

Aaron Hazel, event manager with Feed the Children, said each family received a 25-pound box of food along with other essentials.

“They’ll also be receiving an Avon box, an essential box and they’ll have additional products from Frito Lay, Quaker and Pepsi. We also have some Disney books and toys for each family,” Hazel said.

“Frito asks that everything be healthier, which includes Gatorade-type drinks and good-for-you packs from Frito Lay. We have oatmeal, we’ve got healthier cereals...we do try to have a good healthy impact on the families.”

Daneisha Woods received a voucher through a program called Journey to New Life of Kansas City.

“Journey to New Life is for people who have been incarcerated, and they’re trying to get back on their feet. It’s a transitional living program,” Woods said.

“They gave me a voucher so that’s why I’m here today. As far as the program here, you know, it’s a blessing for those who are struggling out here in the community.”