Yavapai Food Council’s nonprofit Bountiful Kitchen has served over 80,000 meals to hungry kids in the first year.
Sedona AZ (October 17, 2017) – The hunger epidemic in Arizona continues to cripple over 2 million working poor residents who live at or below the Federal Poverty Guidelines. Arizona is ranked number 8 nationally for food insecurity and has the third highest child hunger rate nationwide. Yavapai County continues to lead the state with 1 out of 3 kids food insecure.
Cornucopia Community Advocates study 2013 study, Access to School Meals in Yavapai County, reported that 21 out of 29 (72%) of Yavapai County charter schools and 3 small rural district schools are not serving school meals because they do not have approved commercial kitchens or the resources to support adding an approved kitchen.
As means of solving this issue, Yavapai Food Council (YFC) introduced the areas first non-profit kitchen focused on serving hungry kids. The Bountiful Kitchen prepares, packages and delivers USDA school nutrition compliant breakfast and lunches to schools unable to provide food service, while efficiently applying 85% to 90% of all federal nutrition reimbursement funds directly into fresh, quality food for hungry kids. The National School Lunch Program (NSLP) is a federally assisted meal program operating in over 100,000 public and non-profit private schools. The purpose of this federally funded and state administered school program is to provide nutritionally balanced, free or low cost breakfasts and lunches to proactively reduce child hunger. School districts and independent schools that choose to participate in NSLP are required to operate the meal program without profit and must go through an application process with the Arizona Department of Education (ADE).
Since opening the doors of Bountiful Kitchen September of 2016, Yavapai Food Council has prepared and delivered over 80,000 meals to 11 school and summer meals sites across rural Verde Valley that have more than 60% of the students who qualify for free or reduced cost meals. During the 2017-18 school years, the Bountiful Kitchen will expand services by offering Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) to low-income children at child care facilities. The introduction of this service is anticipated to increase meal service from 450 to 800 meals per day.
The introduction of this social enterprise has changed the lives of hungry kids, caring school administrators and low-income families throughout the Verde Valley. In addition, the contracts between Yavapai Food Council and the partner schools have supported a growth in revenue, cash flow and allowed Yavapai Food Council to diversify and balance non-revenue generating programs with a stable, revenue generating program.
History of Bountiful Kitchen
During 2014-15 school year, YFC tested the NSLP pilot brown bag breakfast and lunch deliveries benefiting rural Desert Star Community School (Cornville, AZ) where 74% of the 181-student population qualified for free or reduced cost meals. Sedona Oak Creek School District was contracted to provide the meals through their third-party, for-profit, contract food service management company. Following a mid-year review and meals evaluation, it was determined that the for-profit corporate structure of the food service management company weighed heavy on labor and overhead, limiting the amount of federal funding that was applied directly to food costs. As a result, the quality and variation of menus and food provided to the students was jeopardized, directly attributing to 44% attrition in student participation.
YFC’s Bountiful Kitchen project is operated with limited paid staff, qualified interns, and many community volunteers. The internship project is a partnership with Arizona culinary arts and nonprofit college programs. Interns spend 12 – 18 weeks with the Bountiful Kitchen, rotating through food service production, operations management, and related business management positions. Each student will works with NSLP nutrition and menu planning software, learn the requirements of the NSLP, and gain experience with ADE reporting and USDA foods protocol. Students graduating from the Bountiful Kitchen internship program will have the skills necessary to gain employment:
- Managing NSLP programs in school kitchens
- Supporting district wide food service
- Working with corporate food service management companies
- Specializing in institutional foodservice sales with wholesale distributors.
“YFC’s nonprofit Bountiful Kitchen is a new way to provide fresh, healthy brown bag school meals to schools that do not have commercial kitchens. This is a four-phase project that will ultimately allow YFC to expand this nonprofit model to district food service management and catering to rural schools with high populations of hungry kids across the county. Our focus is to fund the Sedona-based kitchen build-out with grants and corporate sponsorships. The meal service will generate a federally subsidized contract fee to sustain the operations and interns will supply the production and labor in exchange for the experience and a modest educational stipend. YFC can put nearly all of the reimbursement funds directly toward food costs, improving the foods we purchase while investing more time into recipe development and nutritional analysis, which we believe is the key to happy, healthy students and high participation. With this project, we are committed to providing a wide variety fresh and healthy, high quality, brown bag meals for hungry kids,” states Amy Aossey, Yavapai Food Council Executive Director
Yavapai Food Council’s Executive Director, Amy Aossey, is currently developing a tuition-free, food service workforce training program that will be open to students who are low-income, home, veterans, and disabled individuals. This program is projected to being late spring or early summer in 2018 with a class of 6 to 10 individuals.
Qualified interns interested in participating in the design of the workforce training program should apply at: email@example.com. Private donor and corporate sponsors interested in supporting this project are encouraged to contact Amy Aossey, Executive Director at (firstname.lastname@example.org) or call 928-593-0755.