Kids Cafe Provides Nutritious, Hot Meals to Children in Community

Kids Café, a program that has been providing hot meals for children for the last ten years, started out as “Hot Dogs at the Pool.” Carolyn Garwood and her sister, Ronda Lloyd, quickly realized that most kids were often eating junk food all day. This concern was compounded, knowing that many kids were left on their own during the summer, especially in homes with working parents. Upon discussing this with several other parishioners, St. Paul’s Episcopal Church decided the following year they would give tacos a try. They figured that at least tacos were more nutritious.

Still, the church knew they wanted to do more. They worked with Harvesters for one year, but noticed that kids were throwing away more than they were eating. One parishioner, Sandy Ruthstrom, decided she could cook better food and gave it a try, making hot meals on her own. Garwood and the others began taking these meals to the park and pool to distribute to kids. This program is now known as Kids Cafe.

Before COVID hit, Kids Café was serving about 40 to 60 kids per day. Garwood said this was just the tip of the iceberg. They partnered with the Kansas State Department of Education-Child Nutrition, KSDE, and their numbers soared.

Even COVID didn’t slow their numbers down. Despite challenges that the pandemic brought with it,  Kids Café easily adapted and began serving “Grab ‘n Go” meals from the church. This was easy for both parents and children. Parents could stop by, grab their children’s meals, and take them home. One benefit of the Grab n’ Go meals was that it also required fewer volunteers, Garwood said. “We were serving 75-100 kids every day Monday through Friday through the months of June and July,” Garwood shared.

Since every meal they provide is in compliance with KSDE standards for child nutritional needs, this means that children will be served a hot meal that includes meat, vegetables, bread, and an 8 oz. carton of milk.

Kids Café serves meals from noon to 1:00 p.m. at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, just across the alley from Wendy’s.  Ages 1 through 18 are eligible to eat a free lunch every day. They will start serving meals again on June 1st and will end on July 31st.




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