Dare to Care opens up community kitchen

By Glenn Rutherford, Record Editor

daretocarelogoLouisville’s Dare to Care Kids Cafes have been a major success story since they opened nearly two decades years ago.

Now that success story is likely to become even more broad and significant.

The Lift a Life Foundation has awarded Dare to Care a $1.5 million grant over the next three years to help support the new “Dare to Care Community Kitchen,” the place where
Kids Cafe meals are now cooked before being distributed to the 19 after school meal sites.

The community kitchen, which opened Aug. 14, is a dramatic step in a new direction for the Dare to Care Kids Cafe program.

Let Stan Siegwald, director of policy and planning for Dare to Care, explain:

“Though they were successful, the problem with the Kids Cafe model was that it was designed where the food would be delivered there once a week,” he explained, “and then that food had to be prepared in their own kitchens.”

The cafes needed storage for food — both dry storage and cold storage — and they had to have kitchens certified by the Metro Louisville Health Department, Siegwald explained.

“The need to have a kitchen that meet health and safety codes was obvious,” he said, “but those kitchens could cost $50,000 to $75,000 a piece to put in. So the potential for growth for the cafes was stifled.”

A year or so ago, the board of directors for Dare to Care went through what Siegwald called “an extensive strategic planning process,” that included developing a new logo and a change to the charity’s mission statement.

Dare to Care’s statement now says their role is “to lead our community to feed the hungry and conquer the cycle of need.” To help that statement come true, Dare to Care, Interfaith Paths to Peace and other sponsors organize an annual Hunger Walk — this year on Sept. 15 — to help fight hunger in the community.

And that’s where the new community kitchen for the Kids Cafes does, too. It is helping the Kids Cafes fight hunger throughout the community.

“We realized that other food banks around the country were creating community kitchens,” Siegwald said. “There were a few dozen, and so our board authorized us to study the feasibility of creating a community kitchen here.

The kitchen is located in Butchertown at 1334 Story Avenue, and it’s removed the need for a kitchen at each of the 19 Kids Cafe sites.

“We studied this idea for about three years,” said Siegwald. “We really did our due diligence so by the time the kitchen opened we were really ready to go.”

The meals are prepared at the community kitchen, then delivered to the cafes — “They go out of that kitchen in temperature holding containers, just as though someone was catering an event,” Siegwald explained.

Though Siegwald doesn’t have exact figures for the number of children now being served, he does know that since the community kitchen opened earlier this month, the number of meals being served at Kids Cafe’s jumped from 1,700 a week to more than 5,000 a week.

“And we’ll go beyond that,” he added. “We know that by the end of this calendar year, we’ll already be close to reaching the capacity of the kitchen.”

By the way, the community kitchen is not simply preparing food that has been donated to the Dare to Care Food Bank.

“We’re buying all the food we’re using, and that’s for two reasons,” Siegwald said. “First, we wanted to make sure we were adding food to the community. If we were using our own donated food, then we’d simply be moving food from one hand to the other, so to speak.”

Instead, with the help of the new federal meal reimbursement program  — the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) — Dare to Care gets reimbursed $2.89 per meal it produces.

Since that is a federal program and many politicians are insisting on cutting the size and cost of government — even wanting to cut programs that feed children — Siegwald and others at Dare to Care are aware that the CACFP program could one day disappear in a cloud of political dust.

“We’re taking a bit of a leap of faith right now,” he said, “and in the grand scheme of things when it comes to federal spending, this program represents just a tiny, tiny portion of the budget.”

But he said that the Louisville area appears to be supportive of the community kitchen in a big way.

“Our board realized that this community was really hungry, so to speak, for a new approach to addressing childhood hunger,” Siegwald said. “In 10 years, this program could grow to have people preparing meals at the kitchen to deliver to the elderly or to families. Really, in a decade, this approach could be the new face to really grapple with this issue of hunger.”

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