Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Kids Caf

Fewer children in the city of Holyoke are going hungry these days thanks to a new program called Kids Cafe that is being offered through The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts.

The Kids Cafe, which will celebrate its grand opening in Holyoke on Friday, Feb. 9th, was developed several years ago when two young children broke into a kitchen in Florida to steal food because they were hungry, David Sharken the Director of Food Bank explained.
The incident created public outcry and resulted in a program that worked to feed children. He explained that although there were already programs in place such as soup kitchens, there was nothing geared specifically towards children.

“This was the start of creating a program that gave hot nutritious meals to children in need,” he said.

The city of Holyoke got the opportunity to have a program that provided hot meals to low-income children due to a grant provided by ConAgra. The city was specifically chosen because of the high number of low-income families that are in need of assistance.

The program, which is being run in collaboration with the Holyoke School System, serves meals twice a week to nearly 500 area children.
Sharken explained that the Cafe served meals to students in five after school programs. The meals are prepared by the Holyoke School System and are delivered by volunteers from Americore. Through this program it is expected that the number of hungry children within the city will be significantly reduced.

“Childhood hunger is a very real issue in our community,” Sharken said. “The new Kids Cafe program is an important step toward ensuring that every child in Holyoke has enough food to grow up healthy.”

The cafe will hold its grand opening ceremonies on the 9th at 4:30 p.m. in the United Congregational Church. To celebrate the opening, children from the Holyoke Boys and Girls Club, NEARI-Jump Start, Girls Inc. of Holyoke, Teen Resource Project and El Arco Iris will share a meal with Mayor Michael Sullivan, Darcy Zbinovec of Lightlife Foods (a ConAgra affiliate) and others. Also slated in the plans for the grand opening are a DJ to supply live music for the students and a nutrition educator that will give a demonstration about health.

The Kids Cafe program is run nationwide as a subsidiary of America’s Second Harvest a group that supplies nearly 200 food banks and 150 food rescue areas. In addition, there are plans to open between 75 and 100 new Kids Cafe’s across the country.

Four million children under the age of 12 in the United State go hungry daily and 9.8 million more children live in families who are at risk for hunger. In Western Massachusetts specifically, 51 percent of people served at the Food Bank are children.

“If we can get food to kids, we can possibly prevent lifetime problems,” Sharken said. “This is a way that we can make sure that the children of Holyoke get the nutrition that they need.”

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