New summer feeding program delivers meals to children who face food insecurity

Kids on free and reduced lunch program to benefit from Café-to-Grow

By Rachel Lucas - Anchor / Reporter, Troi English

ROANOKE - In Southwest Virginia, many children are faced with food insecurity. For these children, the summertime becomes even more challenging because they no longer have access to free and reduced school meals. Feeding America Southwest Virginia is working to eliminate this food insecurity by providing USDA approved meals to children with the use mobile food unit called Café-to-Grow.

Café-to-Grow ran for the first time Monday and will continue serving children in need throughout the summer at three new locations in Roanoke including an apartment complex and the Boys and Girls Club of Southwest Virginia.

Amanda Allen, marketing and communications coordinator for Feeding America Southwest Virginia said that a disproportionate amount of children face hunger compared to the amount of adults in the region.

“Every time the statistics come out that tell us about food insecurity, it is always higher in children. That's really, really hard when you see that...the kids are the ones disproportionately affected by food insecurity,” Allen said.

According to data from Feeding America’s Map the Meal Gap study, 18.8 percent of children in Southwest Virginia are food insecure, compared to 12.8 percent of the total population in Southwest Virginia.

For several years, Feeding America Southwest Virginia has worked to close this gap by providing free meals to children at various locations such as libraries and community centers. However, they found that many people were not able to receive these meals because they did not have transportation to these locations.

The program is now able to feed more children by using the mobile food unit to travel to those in need. With the help of sponsors like Food Lion and volunteers in the community who operate the truck, Feeding America Southwest Virginia named the food truck Café-to Grow. 

Monday through Friday the Café -to-Grow food truck will provide breakfast, lunch or a snack to children in certain locations throughout Roanoke Valley and surrounding areas. These meals are completely free and are available to anyone who needs it. The meals will be given on a first come, first serve basis.

Allen said the Café-to-Grow will serve 200 children a day.

“We’re estimating to serve to about 10,000 meals over the course of the summer,” Allen said.
Monday the Café-to-Grow food truck ran for the first time. So far members of the community like Tina Welch of Roanoke City said she is enjoying the program and the community atmosphere provided by the meals. The Café-to-Grow truck made the days first stop at Tinker Creek Apartments Wednesday where Welch said the program is needed.

“It’s really cool because there are a lot of children in our areas and other areas that don’t have that when they’re not in school so I think it’s really amazing," Tina Welch said.

Wednesday, volunteers from the Roanoke City Police Department and BB&T bank came out to help with the food truck.

“The program has become very personal to me,” Janet Morrison said. Morrison is the operations officer for BB&T and spent time volunteering with the Café-to-Grow truck this week.

“They get really excited when they see the truck arrive because they know we are here to serve," Morrison said.
Feeding America Southwest Virginia hopes to reach more areas in the future.


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