By Kelly Youngblood
It all started because of a playdate.
A conversation two moms had while their kids played has evolved into an organized effort to feed more than 100 children in Champaign County.
Jenelle Keene and Ann Kirkland have started a new program called Feeding Our Kids. Its purpose is to send easy and portable weekend food home with children who are in need.
Now their organization is in need of your help. And all it takes is a simple click of your mouse.
The program, which is funded solely on monetary and food donations by local churches and community organizations, is currently in a contest on the Mike Williams Plumbing, Heating & Air Conditioning Facebook page.
The contest is to see which non-profit organization can get the most likes, and the winner will receive a $2,000 donation from the Champaign-based company.
According to Keene, that amount of money “would help feed 100 kids for two months.”
To vote for Feeding Our Kids, go to this link https://www.facebook.com/FasterCleanerBetter. Then go to the photos section, click on the Feeding Our Kids icon, and “like it.” The last day to vote is Feb. 28.
Keene says the idea to start the program came to her after attending a kindergarten field trip. One of the students asked if she could take her lunch (that had been provided) home with her to share with her little sister. After talking to Kirkland about it, the two decided they wanted to find a way to help other children who are “food insecure.”
Keene and Kirkland are focusing their efforts on five schools in Champaign that are not currently being served by the Eastern Illinois Foodbank’s “Backpack Program.” (The two schools who do already receive donations from the Eastern Illinois Foodbank are Carrie Busey and Garden Hills.)
With the help of school social workers and the PTA, Keene and Kirkland have reached out to 100 kids at Westview, Robeson, Stratton, South Side, and Kenwood Elementary Schools. Next month, they plan to increase their outreach to 150 students by adding Bottenfield Elementary and Franklin Middle School to their list. Their goal for next year is to be in every Champaign school that is in need, and ultimately all over Champaign County.
“Our goal is to add school by school until we are everywhere not already covered. As our own nonprofit, we don’t have to follow number guidelines. Our goal is to help children with need, and thus far schools represented have come to us and had parents willing and able to help,” Keene said.
The program also provides food for children over schools breaks. For more information, go to www.feedingourkids.org.