I have a startling statistic for you: 36,860 children living in Kent County are food insecure (meaning they don’t know where their next meal will come from). From 2000 to 2008, Grand Rapids had the largest spike in poverty among any US city at 8.9%, meaning that more children are at risk of becoming food insecure on a daily basis. (Source:www.kidsfoodbasket.org)
How to combat this spike in poverty? One answer comes in the form of a sack supper. Kids’ Food Basket (KFB) is a non-profit organization in West Michigan that is dedicated to attacking childhood hunger. “Kids’ Food Basket’s goal is to ensure that every elementary child in great Grand Rapids has dinner so that their bodies and brains can develop to their greatest potential,” says Christine Lentine, Fund Development and Community Outreach Manager for KFB.
Kids’ Food Basket opened its door nine years ago and began delivering 125 children with a sack supper; it has since grown to serve 4,800 children daily. Sack suppers are evening meals that provide a child with 1,000 calories and contain the five food groups. They receive these suppers at the end of school each day and at local parks over the summer months. Many times the children will take the supper home and share it with their younger siblings. KFB recently moved to a bigger, more efficient location that has allowed them to grow dramatically over the last year. “In this last year we’ve settled into our new location and have been diligently working to feed more children. We’ve taken six schools off our waiting list, increasing our output by 28%,” says Christine.
Kids’ Food Basket is rooted in the community of Grand Rapids. It’s through the love and support of the residents that KFB is able to provide so many children with a stable evening meal. Volunteerism is the foundation of KFB with over 170 people volunteering every day at their facility. “Volunteerism means everything to us,” says Christine. “Volunteers are the heart of KFB; we could not make meals happen without their generous gifts of time.”
What sets this non-profit apart is their focus on student volunteerism and empowerment. Roughly 25% of the volunteers at KFB are under the age of 18. Many students who volunteer here receive suppers themselves. Through their Junior Ambassador Program and Youth Action Board KFB helps students understand what hunger means, assists them in coordinating projects to help end it, and develop awareness of the issue in their own school. Many schools in the area run numerous food and juice box drives and decorate the bags used for the sack suppers with heartfelt messages and words of encouragement. In this respect, KFB shows the leaders of tomorrow that there is no time like the present to get involved.
Many exciting things are on the horizon for KFB. “We are getting ready to celebrate our 10th year of service this coming school year. With the support of the community we have made a huge impact on the children of Grand Rapids and we can’t wait to celebrate that impact as well as talk about where the next 10 years will take us,” says Christine. Kids’ Food Basket also recently launched its first satellite facility at Martin Luther King Junior Elementary School in Muskegon Heights. By fall 2012, it’s projected that 500 children will receive a sack supper in the area. (Source: www.rapidgrowthmedia.com) “In the end we are talking about basic needs and children who do not have dinner in their own community,” says Christine. “It takes money, food, and time to make these meals happen, therefore any area you can help in is greatly appreciated.”
Learn more about getting involved by clicking here.