Kids benefit from produce after school
On a sunny afternoon, dozens of kids buzzing with excitement pour out of a school bus into the Boys and Girls Club Musgrave Unit. Many of them head into the cafeteria to grab a snack.
A club staff member asks, “Apple or oranges?”
Mariah, 7, grabs a couple oranges before catching up with her friends. The first grader at Westport says the best thing about school is going outside for recess.
After school, she enjoys going to the Boys and Girls Club to play.
“I like to go to the Boys and Girls Club because I like to go swimming and it makes me happy,” she said smiling.
She said she also loves getting fruit as her after-school snack. “My favorite food is the bananas and oranges because they’re so healthy for you,” she said.
The produce for the kids at the Boys and Girls Club, an Ozarks Food Harvest After-School Food program, was provided through a $15,000 grant from the Walt Disney Company, thanks to Feeding America. The grant helps provide fresh fruits and vegetables for kids at six After-School Food sites.
Karen Mildfeldt, head cook at the Boys and Girls Club Musgrave Unit, said having fresh produce is great for kids at the club, many of whom are from low-income families.
“It’s great because a lot of the kids that are low-income children, they don’t get a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables at home because they are too expensive,” Mildfeldt said. “They can barely afford to clothe them. Fresh produce is on the back burner.”
Most of the produce is purchased, and some will be grown at Ozarks Food Harvest’s garden in Rogersville.
An estimated 1,600 pounds of radishes, celery, carrots, lettuce and spinach will be grown to help supplement dinners for the kids, and an additional nearly 14,000 pounds of apples, oranges, grapes, bananas, cabbage, potatoes, broccoli, carrots, cucumbers and tomatoes will be purchased to provide healthy snacks and dinners to kids in the program.
Mildfeldt said having the weekly produce donations helps her with her food budget at the club. Not having to worry about buying often expensive fresh fruits and vegetables, she’s able to concentrate her budget on other items to make the meals bigger and more filling for the kids.
Ozarks Food Harvest is committed to have 25 percent of all the food it distributes across southwest Missouri to be fresh produce. Grants like these from the Walt Disney Company are key to meeting that goal.
Mildfeldt said she is constantly humbled by her job, which she has been at for 10 years. She knows how important it is for the kids to eat healthy snacks and dinners.
“If they don’t eat something at the club, they might go home hungry,” she said.
“I have a lot of kids come up and ask, ‘Do you have an apple? Do you have an orange?’ They eat that knowing that they are not going to get anything else at home. It makes me feel good that I can at least give a child a meal and that they aren’t going to bed hungry.”