Charity Issue: Hometown hunger

KSD+Now+is+a+nutrition+program+that+provides+supplemental+food+to+families+on+the+weekends.

Janine Gassel

KSD Now is a nutrition program that provides supplemental food to families on the weekends.

A mystery meatloaf, questionable potato fries and a jiggly blob of what may or may not be Jell-O. This is the infamous “school lunch” depicted in every high school movie, and the back end of many cafeteria jokes. In reality, not all students think it is that terrible to eat. In fact, it is all some of them can eat, according to Emilie Lytton, KSD social worker and coordinator of the KSD Now program. KSD Now is a supplemental food program that provides food for the weekends to students experiencing food insecurity at home.

“[Food insecurity is] a perverse issue everywhere, but there’s a need for [help with it in Kirkwood] too,” Lytton said. “It’s one of those [problems] people expect other communities to have, but not Kirkwood. We have found that’s not true at all.”

Seeing a need for nutritional support among students, KSD formulated a plan in 2018 to provide weekend lunches and snacks for children in need. Fruit snacks, cereal bars and non-perishable items are given to students each Friday as supplemental food while they’re away from school. Kelli McDonald, volunteer and KHS representative for KSD Now, said she was surprised to learn that one in every six kids experience food insecurity in Missouri.

 “They don’t have enough [food],” McDonald said. “I think KSD Now is really important for us to have. You can make a difference in not just one kid, but a whole family.”

It touches everyone in the community, and it’s so great to see everyone come out to support something that is so needed.”

— Emilie Lytton

When KSD first implemented its supplemental program, they expected around 50 families, but more than double that number signed up. As of 2022, KSD Now is serving over 160 kids ranging from pre-K to 12th grade.

“As time goes on, it gets clearer how necessary [KSD Now] is, especially with rising food prices,” Lytton said. “It touches everyone in the community, and it’s so great to see everyone come out to support something that is so needed.”

KSD Now relies on donations and fundraisers from the Kirkwood community, along with the help of volunteers. They also partner with Summit Produce Market in Kirkwood and Fresh Thyme to provide fresh produce to families over the summer. McDonald said one of her favorite parts of the program is that it works to solve a local issue.

“[I love that we’re] making a difference that is tangible in our community,” McDonald said. “You can donate to big organizations that do great things, but to know that we’re helping kids right in our school district is awesome.”

KSD Now has really helped remove the sting of not always being able to provide for my kiddo. They help us feel normal.”

— KSD Now parent

Without the KSD social workers and community support, McDonald said the program would never have as far of a reach as it does now. KSD Now hosts tailgates in the fall and a raffle in the spring in order to generate revenue, as well as through donations. Anyone can donate, from a whole class to a single student. $25 could feed a child on the weekend for an entire month.

“We are super grateful,” an anonymous parent benefitting from the program said. “KSD Now has really helped remove the sting of not always being able to provide for my kiddo. They help us feel normal.”