Marlene Maffei has been executive director of Carson City’s Food for Thought since 2013. Since then she has helped to feed thousands of homeless children, has created new food programs and helps with a new high school program, CHOP.
Food for Thought (FFT) is a non profit that aims to feed homeless children. They operate on a completely volunteer basis, besides their three office employees. Their mission is to provide nutritious meals to chronically hungry school children in Carson’s community. They originally started with sending children home from school on Fridays with healthy food for the weekend, so they start school Monday nourished and ready to learn. They currently cater to 16 schools across Carson City and Douglas county.
“We’ll make around 250 bags today for the kids,” said Maffei. “But it ranges every week from 240-270. Some of these kids were going from lunch on Friday, until breakfast on Monday at school, without eating. And there are around 400 homeless kids in our community. It’s crazy.”
Each bag is packed with 10-12 food items all shopped locally. It usually includes a protein, a fruit or veggie, and a beverage. The food items never require any refrigeration, stoves, or dishes. Today, right before spring break, volunteers packed a bag full of granola bars, mac n cheese cups, fruit cups, cereal and oatmeal, and juices. The plastic bags they use are all donated by Target, for a more discreet look. On Friday, the bags are placed into each child in need’s backpack before they take off for the weekend.
“Since Food for Thought has grown in their efforts, I’ve had a noticeable decline in theft from the store. I used to have 6 or 7 year old coming in on the weekends to steal food,” said Dave Cox, owner of Grocery Outlet.
Maffei and FFT have since enacted three other programs to further help to feed children.
Their summer food service program has been running successfully for the past seven years. FFT utilizes the kitchen at the community center to create warm, fresh meals, and then serve them to all children ages 2-18 who stop by, no questions asked. This past summer they served 8,000 lunches in 55 days.
“They get fresh fruits and vegetables everyday, homemade ranch everyday, and a homemade main course,” said Maffei. “We also do activities with them.”
For the newly created Carson High Options Program, or CHOP, Food for Thought shows up to schools at 1:15 p.m. to drop off a snack sack of about four food items, a sort of “Grab n Go” system. Carson High originally developed the program and then asked for Food for Thoughts expert assistance. They are currently in an experimental period of offering this twice a week, but if demand grows, they have plans to expand to four times a week.
Lastly, FFT and Maffei have also created the infant and toddler program, which provides food and formula for mothers in secondary education.
“My ultimate goal is for Food for Thought to have their own building, with a commercial kitchen, probably over on the east side, so that that building could be a serving site for summer meals and so more kids could have walking distance access,” said Maffei.
FFT has created an “item of the month” donation. For April the item is juice boxes. They also are looking for items such as Spaghetti O’s microwaveable cups, fruit and veggie cups, and individually wrapped crackers/ snacks. All items must be individual serving and shelf stable.
Other ways to help Food for Thought include volunteering, sponsoring a child for the school year for $250, linking your Smith’s rewards card to FFT, or use smile.amazon.com and choose FFT to support and shop.
Food for Thought originally came to Carson City in November of 2004. It began in a closet at Fritsch Elementary School. Rebecca Rund, a PTA member, and Brenda Kizor, a school counselor, created the program to discreetly and directly provide weekly bags of food for children who kept coming to school hungry. They now cater to 16 schools across Carson City and Douglas county.
FFT operates mainly off of individual donations, which they invest right back into the community. To learn more, visit them on facebook or at www.nvfoodforthought.org.