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Kids Helping Kids


Kids Helping Kids gives young people the opportunity to help others by packing food at Gleaners Community Food Bank that will be distributed to other children and youth in southeast Michigan. It introduces the idea of community service in a fun, rewarding way and has both hunger education and nutrition education components too. 
Michigan Nightlight: What really differentiates this program from other youth volunteer programs?
Gleaners Community Food Bank Manager of Youth and Nutrition Programs Winona Bynam: A few things differentiate Kids Helping Kids. One is the education piece. The children don’t just come in and volunteer, but also learn about hunger in the community and about good nutrition. Another piece is that we’re helping to develop future community advocates and philanthropists, introducing young people to the satisfaction you get from giving of yourself to others. Another point of
...we’re helping to develop future community advocates and philanthropists, introducing young people to the satisfaction you get from giving of yourself to others.
differentiation is the fact that the young people are volunteering on behalf of other young people. They’re packing food for other children just like themselves.
 
What are the keys to success for your program?
What we hear over and over again is that the kids have a good time. They’re learning, but it’s not classroom learning. It’s hands-on learning. We use games and other interactive exercises to help them learn about hunger issues and nutrition. Also, Kids Helping Kids is successful because the young people feel that what they did was important, and they want to come back because of that.
 
What existing challenges remain with this program and how do you plan to overcome them?
Kids Helping Kids volunteers pack food for the BackPack Program [provides food for weekend meals to school-aged children] and the SmartBites Program [provides in-school healthy snacks for hungry kids during the school day]. Our biggest issue is always making sure that we have funding for the food that is needed for these programs. We’re always looking for opportunities for funding and appealing to our community and our support base. Through a recent effort, for example, we doubled our BackPack support for the holidays. This means we were able to take some schools off the waiting list to make sure children at those schools have food over the holiday months.
 
Another challenge is making sure that we’re able to offer the Kids Helping Kids program to students in school districts that cannot afford to transport the kids, and don’t have money for field trips, to allow them to participate. For example, for two years we received grant money for transportation for Detroit Public Schools children to participate in Kids Helping Kids. Once
We are always impressed by how seriously the youth take their experience here. They want to do more. They want to stay all day...
here, the program is free. But the students need to get here.
 
What are the children who volunteer with Kids Helping Kids most inspired by? 
They just don’t know that there is so much going on here at the food bank – the enormity of it, that there is so much food coming in and out. They’re also inspired that we have programs just for young people.
 
How does your program take a collective, collaborative approach to creating systemic change for children?  
You have young people reaching out to help other young people. They are putting effort toward helping others. We are always impressed by how seriously the youth take their experience here. They want to do more. They want to stay all day and ask how else can they help. Also, a lot of the youth are impressed that the snacks we’re giving out are items they’d like for themselves. So they feel good about what they’re packing too.  
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