Cape Kid Meals gives weekend nutritional relief
For hundreds of Cape Cod kids, three square meals a day are hard to come by. But Cape Kid Meals in Dennis has taken steps to change that.
The non-profit, which was established in October of 2014, provides meals to children on Cape Cod who would otherwise go hungry on weekends for 42 weeks out of the school year.
A new pilot program provides 14 items of food, including like Kelloggs Nutri-Grain Bars, Kraft Easy Mac, a Minute Maid juice box, and fresh fruit every Friday to 95 children between Ezra Baker Innovation School in Dennis, and Wixon Innovation School, also in Dennis, according to Jullie Dees, director of Cape Kid Meals.
Dees, who moved to the Cape from Texas this past July, said that while many wouldn’t expect an organization like Cape Kid Meals to be necessary in the Cape area, there are a number of local families facing extreme poverty throughout the region. And while many schools provide free lunch and reduced lunch and breakfast programs, once the weekend rolls around, children are going hungry.
“After the tourist season is over, the restaurants close, housekeeping jobs are reduced, and many local businesses won’t re-open until the spring. That leaves a lot of parents without a job and they are either homeless or living below poverty level,” Dees said.
Cape Kid Meals, which is currently only serving Dennis-Yarmouth schools, was initiated in cooperation with Blessings in a Backpack, a nationwide organization that feeds 78,000 children in 800 schools in 45 U.S. states and the District of Columbia, as well as Grace Church in East Dennis. Church leaders, who prepare close to 100 food bags every Thursday evening, found out about Blessings in a Backpack, and immediately made the commitment to fund Cape Kid Meals for a three-year period.
The cost per food bag for each child per week ranges between $3.50 to $3.95, resulting in a cost of $150 per child for the entire school year, and the church hasn’t missed one scheduled delivery since it began one year ago. The Reverend David Johnson, of Grace Church said the opportunity to step up and “feed the future of Cape Cod” only made sense.
“Over the years we have been hearing more and more about the reality of poverty in our town. We kept hearing stories about kids coming back to school from the weekend starving. We began to talk to social workers to see what we could do and to help us identify what children needed help. We ended up driving to a Massachusetts chapter of Blessings in a Backpack and they showed us the ropes and we realized we could do it.”
For Johnson, the local hunger crisis is reflective of what is affecting third world countries around the globe.
“A hungry child is a hungry child whether they are in Haiti or in Dennis and while there are various degrees of need, I can’t live with the fact that there are hungry kids in my town,” Johnson said.
And while it can be costly for the program to run every school year, both Dees and Johnson hope Cape Kid Meals can expand to schools across the region and are looking for other churches, businesses, and organizations to step up and either contribute to the cause, or volunteer to help assemble backpacks.
Dees, who said the 2014-2015 pilot year has been “enormously successful,” with the church funding and additional private donations, said she is also looking to working with national or local grocers and supermarkets to lower food costs, so more children can be fed at a lower cost.
“We want to extend this program to every elementary school on Cape Cod, but in order to do that we will need support from corporate partners, churches and private donors,” Dees said.
“The overall goal is to not have one hungry child on the Cape – that would be a home run and I hope the word will get around and touch other entities that want to get involved.” Johnson said. “We made a promise and we have delivered because those kids are counting on us.”
Donations may be made on the Cape Kid Meals website. To make a donation by check, make it payable to Cape Kid Meals and mail to: Cape Kid Meals, C/O Grace Church of East Dennis, 16 Center St., P.O. Box 755, East Dennis, Ma 02641.