For others, the stakes were higher.
The closing marked the first major disruption to the Library’s participation in Harvesters’ Kids Café program, which provides nutritious after-school and summer meals to anyone between the ages of 1 and 18.
Now — with summer vacation starting for thousands of students in the Kansas City and Independence school districts — Kids Café is returning to help bridge a nutrition gap made worse by a lack of access to school lunches.
“Kids Café is a federal program, and in the past there have been some federal regulations that made it really difficult to continue without being able to get inside of our buildings,” says Crystal Faris, the Library’s director of youth and family engagement.
Those regulations required children to eat the meals where they pick them up and did not allow meals to be given to an adult on behalf of a child.
With the rules newly relaxed, the Library is able to resume the program; and beginning June 1, 2020, Kids Café will be available Monday through Friday from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the Library’s Southeast, Trails West, Waldo, and L.H. Bluford branches. Children and/or their guardians will simply follow the signs to a designated Library entrance where the meals will be individually packed and ready for pickup.
The resumption of Kids Café marks an important step in the Library’s efforts to safely reintroduce important services amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I consider us an organization on the education continuum,” Faris says. “Children learn best when they are not hungry. So if we are going to truly be about learning for the youth in our communities, we need to provide services like this.”
It’s also a way for Library staff to reconnect with patrons.
“I suspect some of our kids probably come to the door and tug on it every day just to see if it’s open,” says Nancy Stegeman, a youth and family engagement librarian at the Trails West Branch. “This is going to give us a chance to reconnect with some of those young people and let them know (additionally) that they are again able to place holds on books and come pick them up and that we are still doing our Summer Reading program.”