Many children in Anchorage depend on their school’s free breakfast and lunch programs to get good nutrition throughout the school year.
Now that school’s out for the summer, it’s up to Bean’s Café’s Children’s Lunchbox program to keep them well fed.
“We’re making some turkey club wraps and carrots and fruit cups for the kids today,” said kitchen coordinator Ginger Okumoto.
Staffers started the first day with just a few hundred meals. Throughout the summer they’ll make more than 66,000.
Parents are always thankful for the extra help, said program manager Randi Binion-Olson.
“I think it has to do with the cost of food in Anchorage, the cost of rent. Sometimes parents have to decide whether to have shelter or to have food and Alaska’s no place to not have shelter in the wintertime,” Binion-Olson said.
Drivers deliver food to more than 20 sites around Anchorage.
“It’s really humbling,” said logistics coordinator Eric Ortolano. “I’ve always been a person who likes to help people so it’s a nice job, a very interesting job. Helping kids is amazing; you can’t describe it any other way.”
Binion-Olson said each year 23,000 kids have “food insecurity,” meaning they’re not sure where their next meal will come from.
She said that’s why it’s up to Children’s Lunchbox to make sure those kids never have to worry when school’s out.
“I think it’s a piece of mind of the parents. Knowing your kids can get food even if you can’t provide it for them I think it’s a big relief and it allows them to work harder so they can provide for their families.”
On Tuesday, some spots like St. Anthony’s Catholic Church were packed with neighborhood kids, while others like Goose Lake were a littler slower with the soggy weather.
Parents are glad the program is there rain or shine.
“For those that are in need of extra assistance, it’s a good place to get your kids out and feed them when you don’t have the money to feed them at home,” said Ben Mount.
For more information about dates and locations for the free meal program, click here.