yam jam.jpg

The Junior League of Wilmington has expanded Kids in the Kitchen to become a year-long initiative with multiple events and programs, collaborating with existing nonprofits, to provide healthy food and nutrition information for the inner-city of Wilmington where there is a lack of adequate full-service food stores and decreased access to recreational areas.

Community partners

  • The Blue Ribbon Commission on the Prevention of Youth Violence/Youth Enrichment Zone (YEZ)
  • The Food Bank of Eastern NC
  • Nourish NC

How it works

Yam Jam is the annual kickoff event, a collaboration between several nonprofits including The Food Bank of Eastern NC to provide fresh produce to families. This event is held in the fall, as kids are returning to school. Kids in the Kitchen volunteers distributed over 17,000 pounds of yams at the first event! In addition, they had educational booths for parents and students where they discussed the nutritional benefits of yams, healthier twists on standard yam recipes, kid friendly yam recipes, and even how to grow and care for yams. The event was a huge success with over 100 families attending!

The follow up backpack program is also a collaboration with an existing nonprofit (Nourish NC), that sends backpacks of food home with children from the Youth Enrichment Zone for nourishment over the weekends. It costs between $7-$10 per backpack (with the discounted rate of food purchased from the food bank supplemented with food donations) per student. Kids in the Kitchen volunteers will continue to include informational handouts on nutrition and importance of physical activity in the backpacks.

The League also hosts Kids in the Kitchen one day events throughout the school year for families to learn even more healthy habits. Events include coupon and meal planning workshops for parents, Zumba classes, jump rope challenges, and more healthy food demonstrations. Each family who attends leaves with a full belly (dinner is provided), a backpack of food, and a potted fruit or vegetable plant to take home and start their own garden. These events have ranged from 50 to 75 families in attendance.

 What’s the impact?

Overall, our Kids in the Kitchen initiative serves over 200 families each school year. In addition, the grant will allow us to continue to provide the fifteen children already receiving backpacks of food and nutritional information throughout their summer break, while they attend a free educational summer program at the school.