A new summer feeding program for Chase County launched at the Southfork Smokeshack, 304 S. Cottonwood St., Strong City on June 6th.
That Pop-Up Restaurant, started by Matthew Shepherd of Social Innovation Laboratory, will offer free evening meals to Chase County children ages 18 years and under from 5 - 7 p.m. every Tuesday and Thursday evening through August 10.
That Pop-Up Restaurant offers a new spin on the traditional summer food program model, serving as a made-to-order stop similar to a burrito bar, as an evening option rather than breakfast and lunch. Shepherd hopes it will help to erase the stigma for some families who benefit from the program.
“We’re not really strongly advertising this as a summer feeding program,” Shepherd said. “We’re really trying to advertise it as a restaurant. You know, if a cool, pop-up restaurant appears in your community, everyone is going to want to try it out and see what it’s about. And then the fact that you can eat free or your kids can eat free can make it really attractive to people, whether they realize it’s a summer feeding program or not. That’s kind of our basic approach to it.”
Items like rice bowls, salads and burritos are on the menu and children will have the opportunity to pick and choose what proteins and toppings they want. They will also be served milk or a smoothie.
“What we’re going to serve is some offerings that have the same basic sets of ingredients,” Shepherd said. “We have burritos, salads and rice bowls, so kids and even adults can come in and order what they want and we’ll prepare them on site. It more than meets all the minimum qualifications for the summer feeding program.”
Shepherd said about $2,500 has been raised with private donations through SIL, but the program will be eligible for reimbursement through the USDA’s Summer Food Service Program once they start serving meals. Adults will also be able to purchase meals at $5 for the main dish and $2 for a smoothie.
The meals must be consumed on site.
“This is where we’re different than your traditional summer feeding program,” Shepherd said. “In a traditional summer feeding program, kids come into a location for a meal and the meal may change from day to day, but everyone gets the same meal.”
Shepherd said the lack of variety, combined with other factors, can affect the attendance and use of the programs.
“There’s a couple problems with that, like maybe someone not wanting to go all the way down there for a turkey sandwich,” Shepherd said. “There’s also a stigma involved, that if you’re going to the church (for a meal), everybody knows you’re going to the church because you don’t have any food at home.”
Shepherd said this is the first official project for SIL, and that they had been interested in working on the issue of food security. After attending a meeting about food programs, he realized they would be able to fill a need in Chase County.
“I attended a regional meeting around the summer feeding program about six to eight months ago,” Shepherd said. “Chase County was one of 15 counties in Kansas that had no summer feeding program, so it was a place that kind of needed that. Because of that, because it was close by and its in our area, we realized we could make a local impact.”
Shepherd said the next task was finding a host site where they would be able to serve the meals throughout the summer. Shepherd said he met Chase County resident Kris Larkin through Kansas Appleseed Center for Law and Justice and Larkin then put him in touch with Southfork Smokeshack owner Mike Hastings.
Hastings said he was pleased to hear about the program, and was glad to offer the trailer for the group.
“We had decided earlier that we weren’t going to open the trailer for window service passed the fair this summer,” Hastings said. “So the trailer wasn’t really going to be in use. It worked out really well.”
Shepherd and SIL will be running the program and serving the meals, and Hastings said he was hopeful that the program would fulfill a need for local children.
“I think it’s going to help out some kids that might not be able to get a hot meal,” Hastings said. “If they’re successful with that, then I think it’s going to be a great thing for Chase County.”
Shepherd hopes that this model will prove successful, so that other organizations and schools might be able to adopt it in the future.
“If we can get a menu that covers all the food attributes (for the food service program), and it comes in under budget, and we have a website for it and flyers and we have all the materials you need to buy to start this food service program, then someone can just come and start a program,” Shepherd said.
Shepherd said they are in need of volunteers to help serve meals throughout the summer, and are also still accepting donations. Volunteers will need to complete a short training session prior to being able to help.
Those who wish to find out more about these opportunities can visit the web site www.thatpopuprestaurant.com or find them on Facebook.
Welcome to the discussion.
Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.