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Local food bank and RTC collaborate to keep kids fed over summer

Eight people are standing in shade in front of a tree. They are smiling for a picture.
Nick Stewart
KUNR Public Radio
Food Bank of Northern Nevada staff members at the Sparks Marina in Sparks, Nev., on June 12, 2024.

The Food Bank of Northern Nevada kicked off its annual Kids Cafe program this week, and it’s collaborating with RTC to help kids get food while school is out.

The heat from the midday sun didn’t deter kids from getting a free lunch at the Sparks Marina.

The Food Bank of Northern Nevada runs a program every summer called Kids Cafe, which helps keep kids fed over the summer while school’s out.

Kids enjoyed activities such as face painting and games when getting their meal.

Stephanie Cowens and her son waited in line to get his face painted. She said she struggles to afford meals for her kids, but she also wants to make sure her kids can socialize since they are homeschooled.

“We pretty much go to all of the food banks. It’s really hard, we have pools and stuff but we don’t really have anything fun for them to do,” Cowens said.

The Kids Cafe program has been going on for over 20 years, and has expanded greatly since its beginning. The food bank collaborates with other local organizations including the Washoe County Library, so that kids can also get a free book with their meal.

This is a critical time to be providing these services, said Jocelyn Lantrip, director of marketing and communications for the Food Bank of Northern Nevada.

“Right now we’re helping 153,000 people which is a record for our organization, and that number is going up all the time, so it’s really important to us that we let as many parents know about this program and that it’s for everyone,” Lantrip said.

With an increasing number of kids needing meals over the summer, the food bank is collaborating with RTC to get kids to these locations free of charge.

RTC is kicking off their own summer program this year called Kids Ride Free, which allows kids 17 and under to ride for free from June through August. Washoe County commissioner and RTC vice chair Alexis Hill said it’s important to provide free access to buses.

“Many children don’t have an opportunity to eat when school is out because free lunches are not in service, but we also want kids to get out and explore our community and have access to all the parks and recreational opportunities that they may not have access to in their neighborhoods,” Hill said.

The Sparks Marina is just one location for the program. The food bank provides meals at 27 locations in the Reno-Sparks area. Meals are also offered in communities across northern Nevada including Elko, Fernley and Lovelock.

No forms or paperwork to qualify for meals are required. The food bank encourages everyone to take advantage of the services.

KUNR’s Nick Stewart is a student at the Reynolds School of Journalism.

Nick Stewart is a political reporting intern for KUNR and a student with the Reynolds School of Journalism at UNR.
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