If you’re under 18-years-old, lunch is free at Emerson Park every Tuesday this summer.
"Last week at this park we hit 35 kids,” said Keith Jordan, an Ivanhoe Masonic Lodge member who volunteers for Kids Café each summer.
"These kids, when they're coming up, it helps them out later in life. It shows them that somebody cares about them,” he said.
Kids Café is part of a USDA program that helps feed children in need across the country each summer. The Kids Café program is sponsored by Harvesters, a Kansas City non-profit, and is run by area volunteers. It’s a free lunch program that is at a different park nearly every day of the week through August 11.
Although Kids Café has been operating since 2001 and feeds thousands of hungry children each summer, organizers still believe such programs are incredibly under-utilized.
"A lot of times families just aren't aware that their kids can come and have an absolute free meal,” said Angela Jeppesen government programs manager for Harvesters.
It’s estimated roughly 21 million U.S. children eat free or reduced lunch during the school year. However, during the summer months, it’s estimated less than 16 percent of those children take advantage of federally funded free lunch programs like Kids Café.
"In our service area we have over 112,000 kids who are food insecure,” said Jeppesen.
22 percent of families in Kansas City are at the poverty line. Kids Café hopes to serve 120,000 meals to kids this summer at their 70 sites throughout the region.
Volunteers like Jordan simply hope families continue to pay it forward if possible.
"They'll remember as a kid that somebody helped them and now it's their turn to help somebody else,” he said.
Kids Café summer free lunch program schedule
Mondays (11:45-1:15) – Lykins Spray Park, 8th & Myrtle, KCMO
Tuesdays (11:45-1:15) – Emerson Park, 2717 Strong, KCK
Wednesdays (11:45-1:15) – Arleta Park, E 77th & Prospect, KCMO
Thursdays (11:45-1:15) – Waterway Park, 708 Waterway Drive, KCK
Area schools hosting free summer lunch programs
Shawnee Mission School District - June 5 - July 28, 2017
Monday through Friday
11:30 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.
There will be no Summer Lunch Bunch on July 3 or 4.
Kansas City Public Schools – Free breakfast and lunch available to any school-aged child within school district boundaries at any Summer Acceleration site. Parents can text “food” or “comida” to 877-877 to be directed to nearest free school meal in their neighborhood.
Find more free summer lunch program locations throughout Missouri here
Find more free summer lunch program locations throughout Kansas here
Want to help?
More summer lunch sponsors, sites and volunteers are needed. If you are interested in helping you are encouraged to contact Harvesters or Kansas City councilman Scott Wagner (816.513.6503).