That’s exactly the need that Harvesters, a food bank serving northwestern Missouri and northeastern Kansas, wanted to fill when it created their Kids Cafe program, and the Kansas City Public Library is proud to participate.
Kids Cafe provides free, nutritious meals for children up to age 18 at after-school and summer sites.
Library sites participating and their Kids Cafe schedules:
- Lucile H. Bluford Branch: Monday through Friday year-round, from 3:30-4:30 p.m.
- North-East Branch: Monday through Wednesday, starting January 7, from 3:30-5 p.m.
- Southeast Branch: Monday through Thursday year-round, from 3-4:30 p.m.
- Waldo Branch: Tuesday through Friday during the summer and Monday through Friday during the school year, from 4-4:30 p.m.
- Trails West Branch: Monday through Thursday during the school year, from 4-5 p.m.
Gabi Otto, a teen associate with the Library, has been organizing Kids Cafe at the Southeast Branch for at least 10 years. She came to realize that the snacks she was serving at her afternoon gaming sessions weren’t enough.
“I learned that the teens who came are hungry,” she says, “and I felt we – the Library – can't expect to educate or entertain teens if they have rumbling stomachs.”
Since getting Kids Cafe up and running at the Southeast Branch, Otto says she regularly serves 20-30 teens each day it’s offered.
“We also know that our neighborhood has a high percentage of families who live at or below the official poverty level,” she says. “So it’s no surprise that kids are hungry.”
Lauren Olson, a youth librarian at the Bluford Branch, hasn’t been involved with the program as long as Otto, but quickly saw its benefits.
“Having meals at the Library removes some of the stigma from food assistance,” Olson says. “It doesn’t look or feel like a soup kitchen. A lot of times, I have a movie on or Legos and games to play with.
“Making sure kids and teens are fed is especially important during the summer months, when they aren’t receiving meals at school.”
Kids Cafe is funded by U.S. Department of Agriculture, and is facilitated in this region by Harvesters.