Brad Kraft understands the impact school meals have on the future of kids.
“Little Johnny that goes through our [lunch] line, one day is gonna be that paramedic; he’s gonna be that fireman; he’s gonna be that policeman that saves your life,” he shared. “They’re gonna take care of us. So, it’s a big thing.”
Kraft is the food service director at Sandusky City Schools in Ohio. In this community on the shores of Lake Erie, everybody, from the churches to the fire department, cares deeply about ensuring kids have the meals they need.
The pandemic showed the community the extent of the need families experienced. Kraft and his team knew some families in the community experienced poverty and even homelessness, but he had not seen it first hand until he went to deliver meals to kids during the school closures.
“That broke my heart because you don’t actually believe it until you actually see it,” he said after witnessing a family living in a motel. “[It was] one little bed, two adults and six kids all laying on the floor…As soon as we opened the door and walked in with the bags of food, they were like, ‘Oh my gosh, our lunch and breakfast is here. Oh my gosh.’ They come up, little kids start, grabbing the bags and they go over there, start pulling stuff out and start eating. I felt like they hadn’t eaten in weeks.”
“It’s very sad to see that,” he explained. “It’s very sad to see kids living like that. It’s not their fault.”
Luckily the community came together like never before.
Kraft remembers being called into a city building in March of 2020. “When I walked inside, there was a humongous rectangle table with about 50 people there. And they all stopped, got quiet and looked at me and said, ‘There’s a food man. There’s a guy we’re looking for.’”
Within hours, they had a plan to feed their kids. Kraft said it was “the biggest thing he had ever seen in Sandusky.” It didn’t matter if it rained or snowed, or how many setbacks they faced, they ensured kids had the meals they needed in this moment of crisis. The long hours and commitment from the community were a life-saver for kids.
Families are still feeling the economic impact of the pandemic in Sandusky, Ohio, but Kraft and his team continue to rely on members of the community to ensure kids not only receive the best quality meals, but also learn about food and where it comes from.
Kraft is proud of the food he serves.
“Kids say ‘Oh my God, this is like a restaurant!’” He shares. “I’m like, ‘well, that’s what it’s supposed to be.’”
He has partnered with local farms to ensure kids can access fresh produce and milk. And with the support of teachers, he has taken first and second graders to the farms to learn where food comes from and to take fresh bags of produce home. Kraft says it’s magical to see kids realize that carrots don’t come from a supermarket shelf but from the ground, or when kids get to pick items from the field.
With the support of No Kid Hungry, Kraft is expanding these learning opportunities to the classroom. He wants kids to learn about healthy eating, so they can be the best they can be. He will have tasting opportunities with kids and take them on more field trips to local farms.
Currently, there are 155 families experiencing homelessness in the district. Kraft’s goal is to connect these families to the resources they need to improve their situation and to continue sharing the joy of meals with their kids.
But he knows there are so many families all over the country experiencing similar challenges.
“It’s kinda disturbing… It gives me anxiety a little bit wondering, how many kids out there didn’t get dinner tonight?” he shared “Are they gonna have food at home? Are they not gonna have it? I wish I could solve all the problems in the world. I know you can’t, but I can try.”
You can also make a difference in the lives of children across the country. In a message of gratitude to the donors that made No Kid Hungry’s grant possible, Kraft expressed, “If it wasn’t for them, kids wouldn’t have what they have right now”