New Research Demonstrates Impact of Kids Cafe Program

America's Second Harvest
Monday, 24 November 2003

New Research Demonstrates Impact of Kids Cafe Program in Fighting Child Hunger and Supporting Families

New research evaluating the impact of the Kids Cafe program, released today by the Center on Hunger and Poverty, shows that the program not only fights child hunger by providing free meals to youth, but it also serves as a critical support system for families.

Kids Cafe, a national program of America's Second Harvest, is one of the nation's largest free meal service programs for children and provides nutritious food to hungry children in safe and nurturing environments. Each Kids Cafe serves an average of 10,000 to 12,000 meals per year. ConAgra Foods is the national sponsor of Kids Cafes and has funded more than 130 Kids Cafes to date in cities across the country.

The Kids Cafe evaluation included interviews with program directors, parents/caregivers and youth participants at 20 ConAgra Foods Kids Cafe sites. It was conducted by the Center on Hunger and Poverty at Brandeis University, the leading scholarly institution addressing hunger policy and programs in the U.S.

Among the evaluation's findings:

  • Two-thirds of children surveyed reported feeling better since going to Kids Cafes. The top improvements children noted were: earning better grades in school, having more energy and less fatigue, having better concentration and feeling less grouchy.
  • 77% of parents/caregivers identified improvements in their child's learning since going to the Kids Cafe; 68% reported improvements in their child's overall physical health.
  • Many parents/caregivers reported that their child's participation in the Kids Cafe program ensures that their child will be fed even when parents/caregivers need to work non-traditional hours.
  • Program directors, parents/caregivers and children view Kids Cafe as much more than a feeding program. Services such as providing a safe environment for children and educational activities also were seen as essential program benefits.

"This evaluation confirms the importance of Kids Cafes in the lives of participants and their families," says Dr. J. Larry Brown, executive director of the Center on Hunger and Poverty. "We know that hunger affects more than just children's bodies it affects their learning capacity, behavior and even their health status. The research indicates that feeding children better leads to an improvement in their overall well-being."

"In four years of supporting Kids Cafes, we have seen first-hand the benefits of providing regular nutritious meals and a safe, nurturing environment for children," says Lynn Phares, president of the ConAgra Foods Feeding Children Better Foundation. "We are proud to support a program that has proven to be effective and hope that its success will encourage communities across the country to adopt Kids Cafe as one way to address one of the most serious issues facing our country child hunger."

Hunger Affects Nearly One in Five American Youth
Approximately 13 million children in the U.S. or nearly one in five youth live in households that are hungry or at risk of going hungry. Many of these children come from families that struggle to make ends meet and simply cannot always cover the cost of housing, medical care, utility bills, car payments and food. In fact, more than one-third of low-income families often must choose between paying rent and buying groceries. The sluggish economy has only escalated demand for food assistance; requests for emergency food aid in major cities jumped 19 percent last year.

The impact of hunger on children's overall well-being is alarming. According to The Consequences of Hunger and Food Insecurity for Children, a review of recent scholarly research, food-insecure and hungry children have poorer overall health and, as a result, miss more days of school and are less prepared to learn when they are able to attend. They are also more likely to have poorer mental health, be withdrawn or socially disruptive and suffer greater rates of behavioral disorders.

Kids Cafe: Ten Years of Fighting Child Hunger
This year, the national Kids Cafe program celebrates its tenth anniversary of providing free, nutritious meals for children in safe environments. Today, there are 141 America's Second Harvest affiliate food banks and food-rescue organizations operating more than 1,200 Kids Cafe sites, which serve more than 12 million meals per year to children in 41 states and Washington, D.C.

"We established the national Kids Cafe program ten years ago to address an overlooked need," says Robert Forney, CEO of America's Second Harvest. "Today, thanks to partners like ConAgra Foods, parents in communities across the country feel comfort knowing that their children have a safe place to go after school and full stomachs at bedtime."

To celebrate the tenth anniversary of the Kids Cafe program and its impact on the nation's children and their families, ConAgra Foods and America's Second Harvest are hosting "Kids Cafe Day" events in select U.S. cities this holiday season. These events will feature a special Butterball Turkey meal for children at ConAgra Foods Kids Cafes and include the announcement of the Center on Hunger and Poverty's research results.

A copy of the full evaluation is available at www.CenterOnHunger.org or www.FeedingChildrenBetter.org.

The Center on Hunger and Poverty promotes policies that improve the lives and developmental capacities of low-income children and families in the nation. Established in 1990, the Center conducts applied research and policy analysis, disseminates analytic information on poverty and hunger, carries out public education initiatives and provides assistance to policy makers and organizations across the country on poverty- and hunger-related issues. The Center on Hunger and Poverty is part of the Heller School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University.

ConAgra Foods' Feeding Children Better program is the nation's largest corporate initiative dedicated solely to fighting child hunger. Feeding Children Better has funded more than 130 new Kids Cafes, supported technology and transportation programs for the America's Second Harvest network of food banks (including the purchase of 100 trucks for food banks), and sponsored the Ad Council child hunger campaign. Feeding Children Better is funded by ConAgra Foods, Inc.

ConAgra Foods, Inc. (NYSE: CAG) is one of North America's largest packaged food companies, serving consumer grocery retailers, as well as restaurants and other foodservice establishments. Popular ConAgra Foods consumer brands include: ACT II, Armour, Banquet, Blue Bonnet, Butterball, Chef Boyardee, Cook's, Eckrich, Gulden's, Healthy Choice, Hebrew National, Hunt's, Kid Cuisine, Knott's Berry Farm, La Choy, Louis Kemp, Marie Callender's, Orville Redenbacher's, Parkay, Reddi-wip, Slim Jim, PAM, Pemmican, Peter Pan, Snack Pack, Swiss Miss, Van Camp's, Wesson, and many others. For more information, please visit us at www.conagrafoods.com

For more information, or to contact America's Second Harvest, see their website at: www.secondharvest.org

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