Kids Kitz help families bridge the gap until September

Families lined up Wednesday morning this week outside Community Aid Elk River.

Rain or shine, it’s a scene played out every Wednesday morning in the summers at the Elk River food shelf located 12701 Elk Lake Road NW, Elk River.

It’s not the picture most people have of Elk River, but its reality for many families, whether your perception of the community is that of rural, suburban or otherwise.

“Most people don’t think of Elk River as a rural community anymore,” said Carmen Pouliot, the executive director of CAER. “But one look at a map of the Elk River Area School District highlights how spread out the district is and how challenging it is to develop a centralized summer food program.”

There are more than 2,100 children in CAER’s service area that use the free and reduced lunch program during the school year.

“Many families with school-age children suffer greater food insecurity during the summer months because they do not have access to this feeding program,” she said. “CAER offers a summer supplemental food package designed to help parents feed their children during the summer months,” Pouliot said. “Our Kidz Kitz program offers families a package of food that contains breakfast and lunch items like bread, milk and fresh fruit.”

Volunteers at the food shelf vary the contents each week, but they focus on providing nutritious food that is kid-friendly.

“We want them to eat and enjoy what they’re eating,” Pouliot explained.

In 2012, CAER served more than 900 area children, reaching 463 families with nearly 84,825 pounds of food through the Kidz Kitz program alone.  Participation in Kidz Kitz has increased each year CAER has offered the program, and Pouliot expects that number to increase again in 2013.

Kidz Kitz is unique in another regard.

“CAER volunteers pack every Kidz Kit, and the program provides a unique opportunity for kids to help kids,” Pouliot said. “We allow youth groups, families and young people needing community service hours for school or church to pack Kidz Kitz.

“It’s a great way to get them to think beyond their own experiences and realize that their classmates, neighbors or friends may be hungry,” Pouliot said.

To volunteer with CAER for Kidz Kitz, call Tracy at 763-441-1020. If you need help this summer and live in Elk River Area School District 728, call CAER at 763-441-1020.