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K&W offers free lunches to kids

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Zion Barnes, 6, eats rice, peas and chicken on Monday while participating in the summer feeding program at K&W Cafeteria.

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BY AMELIA HARPER
Staff Writer

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

K&W Cafeteria is stepping up to the plate this summer by partnering with other organizations including Cape Fear Tutoring and the U.S. Department of Agriculture to offer free, nutritious lunches to all children in the community from 1 to 18 years of age.

“This is the first time we have seen a restaurant get involved in being a summer feeding site,” said Melissa Connolly, director of program administration for Cape Fear Tutoring Inc., which is sponsoring the program. “And the K&W Cafeteria in Rocky Mount was the first one to launch this effort.”

The program launched in Rocky Mount on June 11 with a special appearance by Mike Cook of American Ninja Warriors, representatives from the Shriners and Ray, the USDA’s Summer Food Service Program mascot. The K&W Cafeterias in Goldsboro and Wilmington also are on board with the program, which will offer free lunch meals to children in the community on weekdays until Aug. 25.

As part of the program, any child aged 1 to 18 can simply come to the K&W Cafeteria between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. on Monday through Friday and receive a special “Ray” meal approved and funded by the USDA. The menu rotates over 10 days so children who come every day will receive a different meal once every two weeks.

On Monday, the meal consisted of roasted chicken bites, whole-grain rice, green peas, sweet potatoes and milk, either white or chocolate. Children who came through seemed to enjoy eating their meals in the cafeteria setting, which added a special touch to their normal lunch.

Rachel Shell was at K&W Cafeteria for lunch on Monday with a group of children and adults from the Open Door Ministry of Faith Summer Camp program.

“I love this program,” Shell said. “Everyone is friendly and there were volunteers to help the kids get their food. This is our first day here, but I am sure we will be coming back with more kids.”

Though the program is targeted at low-income children, the meals at K&W are offered for free to all children without any need to provide identification or income qualifications and staff members encourage any child in the community to participate.

Staff members at Cape Fear came up with this novel approach to providing summer feeding sites for children who may not otherwise have access to nutritious meals when school is out, said Kathy Dikeman, CEO of Cape Fear Tutoring.

“Usually the sites are at schools or day cares, but we tried to identify sites where the kids were not already there. We also wanted to come up with some unique ways to provide kids with a variety of foods, so we entered into a conversation with K&W and they said, ‘Let’s try this at a couple of restaurants this summer,’” she said. “The Rocky Mount location has been the most popular so far. Last Friday, we had 132 children come through to participate in the program.”

Day-care centers, summer camp programs and church groups are taking advantage of the program, but Dikeman said she sees a good number of families and individual groups come through as well. Because the program is in the K&W Cafeteria setting, serving the food is a very efficient process and the meals are well-prepared with quality ingredients, she said.

Virginia Braswell, general manager of the K&W Cafeteria in Rocky Mount, said the program is going well.

“So far, it has been great and has caused no problem for our other customers because the children have been really well-behaved. And if big groups of children come in, we go ahead and seat them and bring the meals to them, so they don’t hold up the line,” she said.

Braswell said she sees this as an important way to serve the community.

“Kids need to eat,” Braswell said. “This gives them a chance to get out of the house and have a good meal.”

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