New Kids Cafe facility will help expand program in Panhandle

The High Plains Food Bank Kids Cafe is going to be able to expand their reach and help even more Texas Panhandle children living in food insecure homes. That's because HPFB is building a new facility that they said will be bigger and better.

The Kids Cafe is an after-school meals program that serves hot nutritous meals five days a week. Meals exceed the USDA guideline for nutrition. All meals are prepared in a central kitchen and delivered to sites on a daily basis. All locations are either a school with a 90% or higher free or reduced meals in neighborhoods with increased poverty rates, or are catering to a population of high food insecurity. The Kids Cafe has served children of the Panhandle for 10 years.

There was a ground breaking ceremony for that new Kids Cafe facility Friday at 8th and Osage, next to the HPFB's warehouse. The new facility will give them the space to expand from 10 sites in Amarillo to include others in the Texas Panhandle.

The HPFB serves Armstrong, Briscoe, Carson, Castro, Collingsworth, Cottle, Dallam, Deaf Smith, Donley, Gray, Hale, Hall, Hansford, Hardeman, Hartley, Hemphill, Hutchinson, Lipscomb, Moore, Ochiltree, Oldham, Parmer, Potter, Randall, Roberts, Sherman, Swisher, and Wheeler Counties.

According to the HPFB, 24.7% of the service area's children live in a food insecure home, equaling to 31,270.

"If they have all those nutritional requirements met then they do better in school, they have more energy. They're more lively and they can be what they're suppose to be a kid," said HPFB Executive Director, Zack Wilson.

Currently the Kids Cafe is located on the Amarillo College East Campus and serves after-school hot meals at 10 sites in Amarillo. Those are at Caprock High School, Eastridge Baptist Church, Glenwood Maverick Boys and Girls Club, Hamlet Elementary School, Humphrey's Highland Elementary School, Maverick Boys and Girls Club, San Jacinto Elementary School, Southlawn Baptist Church, Whitter Elementary School, Wills Elementary School.

With the $1.8 million facility, they'll have 7,300 square feet to prepare meals.

"It's a capacity issues. We've got a lot of equipment and it really makes navigation in a kitchen very hard even down to the chopping of the fresh fruits and vegetables that we do," said Wilson.

"Square footage, cooler space, more ovens, just more room to work and the fact that its closer to us," said Kids Cafe Director, Leigh Fuller.

More room means expanding the meals program to other Texas Panhandle counties.

"We'll be able to send out about 5,000 meals out in an 8 hour time frame," said Wilson, who added that's five times more than what they're serving now.

Construction on the new facility is expected to be completed by August of 2014, just in time for the new school. Wilson said money for the new facility comes from grants and generous donations.