News / USA

Kids Cafe Fights Childhood Hunger

After-school program feeds the hungry while exposing children to healthy foods

Students in the Kids Cafe after-school program learn about the nutritious value of an avocado while making an avocado and bean dip.
Students in the Kids Cafe after-school program learn about the nutritious value of an avocado while making an avocado and bean dip.

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Deborah Block

In the United States, many low income parents cannot afford to buy enough food for their children. A program called Kids Café is helping some of these children by providing free nutritious snacks and meals during after-school programs.  

At a community center in Virginia just outside of Washington, D.C., children make an avocado and bean dip as part of their after-school program. Many of them have never seen an avocado.  

"It’s very healthy for your body, but the main thing is that it tastes really, really good," Keith Clements tells them. He's with Arlington Parks and Recreation, which runs the after-school program.  

The children are between the ages of five and 11 and are from several local schools. About half have parents who are from Ethiopia. Many of the children eat traditional Ethiopian food at home. Kids Café, with food donated by a food bank, gives them an opportunity to try different types of food.

"It's good," says one girl.

Rebecca Nance, whose parents are from the United States, is not so sure. "The taste is weird."

Her mother, Daffany Nance has two children in the program. She's glad her kids are getting nutritious food.

"Even in my house we don’t have much junk food," says Nance, "so it’s very important that it’s healthy and continues to help them grow and be nourished in the proper manner."

The charity, Feeding America, launched the national Kids Café program in 1993. The organization says more than 16 million children in the United States live in households where there is not enough food to eat.  

Kids Café became part of the after school program at this community center five years ago.  Lori McFail heads the after-school program. She says some children do not eat well-balanced evening meals because their parents work late or cannot afford healthy food.  

"Some of them have reported that they don’t get enough food," says McFail.

The children are encouraged to share what they've learned with their families.  

Clements says recipes, like this avocado dip, are easy to make. "It’s a very kid friendly recipe because anyone can do it. You really don’t need any special utensils."

The children are taught about the nutritional value of foods.   

"It doesn’t give you any fat or sugar in it," says one girl.

They also learn which foods are good for them.

"You should always eat vegetables and fruits every day to give you muscles," says a boy named Matthew.

McFail hopes the children will apply what they've learned about nutrition throughout their lives. "I love the fact that I can come here, and know that they’ve eaten, and they're full and they're happy."

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