Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Cookies for Kids

During the school year, more than 21 million children in the nation's food-insecure homes qualify for free or reduced-price breakfasts and lunches at school. But that begs another question:

What do they eat over the weekend?

Here in Northeast Ohio, children make up roughly 30 percent of the total population (more than 574,000 people) served by the Greater Cleveland and Akron-Canton Regional food banks. In partnership with Feeding America, the food banks offer a backpack program which distributes bags of food to children to help them access nutritional foods on days they're not in school.

Yet because of a constant struggle for resources, these bags are not available over holiday weekends or over the summer. During the summer months, hungry kids must travel to designated spots throughout the city to receive a meal.

"If you're near a community center you can go and get [food]," says Myra Orenstein, president of Cleveland Heights-based advertising firm CATV and acting executive director of Cleveland Independents. She'd like to see more of these sites to make it easier for kids to access.

Seeing the need and feeling inspired to help alleviate hunger in the community, Orenstein worked with the restaurant collective and area food banks to organize a one-day cookie drive, which takes place this Thursday, July 9 at select Cleveland Independents restaurants — including Bistro 185 Fahrenheit, Flying Fig, Luna, Moxie, Toast and the Willeyville (see the Cleveland Independents home page for a full list of participating locations).

For two and a half bucks, you can get a chef-made cookie such as Fire's oatmeal and chocolate chip version, Corky & Lenny's oversized chocolate chip cookie or Nuevo Mod Mex's Mexican chocolate cookie. In the process, you'll sweeten the pot a little for children in need: Dollar for dollar, that small price will provide 10 meals, according to the Greater Cleveland Food Bank.

One hundred percent of money raised during the drive will go to the food bank closest to the participating restaurant to help support the backpack program. And while one drive alone won't solve these problems, it's a much-needed influx of cash to help food-assistance programs like the backpack program.

"I was shocked to see the need," Orenstein says. "[Hunger] is just down the street, it's not a foreign country. This is Cleveland."

Feeling a little post-holiday-indulgence guilt? Save the calories and just donate cash through the virtual food drive.

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