Utah Libraries Are Serving up Meals to Hungry Kids
These libraries offer so much more than books.
For children in Salt Lake County, Utah, the libraries aren’t just for reading anymore. Kids visiting a library are finding fun, friendship and even supper, thanks to the library system and the Utah Food Bank’s Kids Cafe.
Creating a Haven for Kids
Many children come to a library after school because they have nowhere else to go, says Melissa Wayman, library manager at the Magna, Utah, branch of the Salt Lake County Library. Their parents may be working or struggling to make ends meet.
“We do see kids who haven’t eaten all day and ask us for food or for money,” Melissa says. “There are kids who come every day after school. They’re here from 3 to 9 p.m., so it really helps to keep them happy in the library and fulfill that need.”
Eating at the Kids Cafe
The Kids Cafe serves nutritious food to children up to age 18 for one hour every weekday, and during a snack time on Saturdays. After-school activities such as yoga, chess club and video games are also available. Mothers often bring toddlers and young children for the first part of the dinner hour, and older kids and teens eat later. Leftovers are available to anyone, including adults who are homeless or otherwise in need of a healthy meal.
The objectives of the program are twofold: to ensure that the children most vulnerable to hunger receive an evening meal and to provide balanced nutrition in each meal served.
Ginette Bott, president and CEO of the Utah Food Bank, says library meals are part of the after-school program offered through the federally funded Child and Adult Care Food Program. A typical weekday meal could include a turkey sandwich, string cheese, a fruit cup, 100% fruit juice and milk.
The Kids Cafe also partners with elementary schools, Boys & Girls Clubs and community centers. Last year, the program served 405,215 meals to kids at risk for hunger.
Because children and teens are spending so much time at the library, Melissa says, “we also provide a constructive, pro-social environment where they don’t feel like they’re at school, but perhaps they’re still learning something, communicating and building relationships. And they’re doing that in a more successful way because they’re not hungry.”
Food banks are doing what they can to fight hunger in the face of the pandemic, but they need help. Want to know what you can do? Visit feedingamerica.org/covid19 to learn more about Feeding America’s pandemic response, and find a food bank near you.