Students participating in the YMCA after-school program in eight elementary schools across the greater Spokane Valley will now receive free snacks from Second Harvest.
The food bank has set up Kids Cafes in conjunction with other youth programs at several locations throughout Spokane County. The first three were in the Northeast Community Center and the West Central Community Center in Spokane, and Cheney Middle School in conjunction with Communities in Schools.
Students receive snacks of fresh fruits and vegetables, dairy products and other snacks that reinforce proper nutrition.
Now the food bank has set up Kids Cafes at Trent, Seth Woodard, Trentwood, South Pines, Progress, Skyview, Pasadena and Otis Orchards elementary schools.
“We were looking for a partner in the Valley,” said Rod Wieber, director of donor and community relations at Second Harvest. The food bank approached the YMCA and opened the cafes Jan. 13.
“They’ve just done a great job,” said Heather Irmer, the School-Age Care Program director through the YMCA.
To kick off the cafe, Second Harvest brought its mobile food bank to Trent Elementary School to distribute food to anyone who stopped by. The food bank served about 125 families that night.
“That was an amazing thing to be a part of,” Irmer said.
Irmer said the students involved in the School-Age Care Program receive their snacks after school. The program serves students from 6:30 a.m. until school starts, then after school until 6 p.m. She said there were around 150 students involved in the program in the eight locations.
One of the first snacks the students received was fresh oranges.
“They just thought that was the coolest,” Irmer said. She added that Second Harvest uses latex-free service gloves for food service and sends the cafe Sunbutter, a sunflower seed-based substitute for peanut butter, since the schools are latex- and peanut-free zones.
Wieber said Second Harvest also partnered with the Boys & Girls Club of the Tri-Cities and opened Kids Cafes in 11 locations Wednesday. The program will serve around 500 kids in that area.
“It’s just so important to reach kids and hook them up with nutritious food,” Wieber said.