Childhood hunger in our community is very real and is increasing every day. At AISD, there are 16,077 students enrolled, and 9,595 of those receive free and reduced breakfast and lunch. That’s 59.97% of the children right here in Abilene. Many of these children count on those two meals each day because that may be all they have to eat until school the next day.
In our thirteen county service area, there are nearly 18,000 children living at or below the federal poverty level. This equates to food insecurity (not knowing if they will have enough to eat) for some, but for others it means going to bed hungry. It is hard for children to learn or even play when they are hungry.
Texas and New Mexico have the highest rate of childhood hunger.
We opened our Kids Cafe in September 2003. We provide a hot, nutritious evening meal to an average of 155 children 4 nights a week. That is 2,500+ meals each month.
At our Kids Cafe, neighborhood children find a safe, nurturing place to go in the afternoon to stay, while learning to use the computer, receive help with homework, and other activities. Before going home in the evening, we provide them a hot meal Monday through Thursday. It is a tremendous program for the kids, and their parents are very appreciative of the help.
Site selection depends on a number of factors. First and foremost, at least 90% of the children must receive free or reduced meals from the school. The site needs to be in an established program that caters to children. It must be in a neighborhood that is easily accessible for children to either walk or ride their bikes to the site.
Sponsored by ConAgra Foods and Feeding America
Kids Cafe is a national program sponsored by ConAgra Foods and Feeding America. The program was developed so that low-income children at risk of going to bed hungry could receive a hot, nutritious evening meal throughout the year. In 2003, the Food Bank of West Central Texas applied for and received a grant from ConAgra ($20,000 for 1st year, $10,000 for 2nd year, and $5,000 for 3rd year) to establish our first Kids Cafe location. We partnered with the Boys & Girls Club of Abilene at 1925 Shelton. The club is adjacent to Fannin Elementary, and through a collaborative effort with the Abilene Independent School District, we are allowed to use the kitchen at the school to cook meals. Several factors went into picking the B&G Club at Fannin. Number one is that the poverty rate is high. Ninety percent of the children in that neighborhood receive free breakfast and lunch during the school year. Number two is that the Club is well established and offers dozens of programs that draw the kids to the site each day. Number three is that it is a safe place for the children to hang out and get a nutritious meal before they go home in the evening.
If you are interested in the Kids Cafe program, call Chad Kirkland, Childhood Hunger Program Coordinator at (325) 695-6311.
Please visit ConAgra Foods website for more information on their food and programs.
Please visit Feeding America for great information about the Food Banks in the United States and what Feeding America is all about.