Each year, 16 million American kids struggle with hunger. An estimated 16.2 million children live in households that lack the means to get enough nutritious food on a regular basis.
As a result, about 1 in 5 children go hungry at some point during the year.
It is with these alarming numbers in mind, a number that has and will continue to increase greatly during the COVID-19 pandemic, that Dinners4KidsOC was born.
Launched this summer, Dinners4KidsOC began in Monroe as the Empire Diner and Rabbi Roger Lerner of Monroe Temple of Liberal Judaism joined forces to replicate a Pennsylvania program that has been successful in feeding hundreds of children per week over the past decade.
They worked in conjunction with Pine Tree Elementary School in Monroe to identify at-risk children in the school and with parental consent, began creating delicious kid-approved microwaveable meals for the participating families.
Microwaveable meals sent out three times a week
Empire Diner creates and produces the meals, which are packaged and delivered to families each week by a dedicated team of volunteers.
“Children going hungry is unacceptable to me,” said Empire Diner owner David Wenger. “And knowing that COVID-19 has made matters worse with many children not even able to get hot school lunches, we’ve pulled out all the stops to get food prepped and sent out three times a week so that children can have hot dinners six days a week. They’re also microwaveable making it easy for kids to heat by themselves.”
Dinners4KidsOC is expanding in Monroe and seeking to roll out into Chester and Warwick school districts in the near future.
“We hope to connect with other schools to enroll more Orange County children in the program,” Wenger added.
Assemblyman Colin J. Schmitt stated, “Our community always comes together to help those in need. I want to thank David Wenger of Empire Diner and Rabbi Lerner for launching Dinners4KidsOC to help tackle food insecurity issues among our youngest county residents. I am proud to support this new program and encourage all who can assist or benefit from the program to reach out.“
Donations are needed. Every dime donated goes directly into feeding children other than a nominal fee for food costs. Corporate sponsors thus far include ShopRite of Monroe, Target and Plaza Optical, among others.
For more information or to donate, visit www.dinners4kidsoc.org.