Dinners for Kids’ program honored

Article from The Times Leader on November 2, 2011

The Millennium Circle Fund gives $20,000 grant to the CEO for effort begun by Ollie’s owner

An innovative program founded by an Edwardsville restaurateur to feed local needy children nutritionally balanced meals was awarded a grant Tuesday to help further that mission.

The Millennium Circle Fund of The Luzerne Foundation presented a $20,000 grant to the Commission on Economic Opportunity for the “Dinners for Kids” program at the Millennium Circle’s 2011 Annual Luncheon.

During the luncheon, a representative from each of six nonprofit finalists – narrowed from a field of 13 – presented to almost 200 Millennium Circle members and guests how the grant would help their organization and, by extension, the community. Millennium Circle members then voted on which charity should receive the grant.

David Tevet, who owns Ollie’s, An American Restaurant, with his wife, Edna, apparently made the best case. “Dinners For Kids fights childhood hunger and improves children’s health with a program that is simple in concept, cost effective, practical in application, proven by results, and easily replicable,” he said.

When the Tevets learned that more than 10,000 children in Luzerne County are at risk of getting no decent daily meal other than their school-provided lunches and no decent meal at all when school is out, they came up with the idea last year of providing some of these children “kid-approved” nutritious and balanced dinners in microwave-safe containers, accompanied by fresh fruit and homemade desserts.

Children were referred to the program by teachers and county Children & Youth social workers.

The food is prepared at Ollie’s and delivered to children’s homes by volunteers. Because of the restaurant’s buying power and volunteers, one complete meal costs about $1.70, far below the rate for federal food programs. It costs about $21,000 a year to feed 40 children, and the program now serves 50, Tevet said, adding that the grant will enable the program to add another 40 children.

Tevet hopes a regular source of funding can be secured so he can approach other restaurants with a challenge to replicate the program and serve more needy children. He noted the program is effective because it can’t be taken advantage of in ways that food stamp programs can.

The Millennium Circle Fund was created by a group of donors whose gifts of $2,000 help the Luzerne Foundation identify significant unmet community needs. The ultimate goal is to have 2,000 members and a fund that can present community grants totaling $200,000 annually.