May 9, 2003 | By: Aimee D. Heald

Children attending Kids Café in Harlan County receive much more than a healthy balanced meal; they also learn valuable life skills and have some fun.

Volunteers from the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service join with other community and state organizations to provide Harlan County kids with a healthy meal, tutoring, nutrition lessons, crafts and games each Tuesday after school. 

Kids Café teaches children about healthy eating choices.

“The Kids Café started two years ago thanks to a grant from God’s Pantry food bank,” said Theresa Howard, Extension agent for family and consumer sciences in Harlan County. “All the Extension agents in our county are involved in some way. Sometimes we’re all here the same week, and other times we rotate.”

In April, Extension professionals used an egg theme since it was close to Easter.

“All kids like to hunt for Easter eggs,” Howard said. “We taught them all about eggs – everything from information about the hens to egg safety and preparation.”

Howard said when kids arrive they have a nutritious snack and they get help with homework from some of the volunteers. Sometimes they participate in 4-H programs and other times they have an opportunity to make crafts. Ages of participants range from kindergarten through eighth grade, and high school kids can volunteer to help.

Harlan County Children’s Librarian Richard Haynes comes to Kids Café each week to read stories to the children.

“The kids get a good meal here every week and that is the primary focus,” he said. “At least once a week they get to come to a prepared, scheduled program that allows them to relax a little bit and gives them some focus. It also gives their parents some time off.”

One parent who is grateful for Kids Café is Kristy Estes whose two sons and two nieces attend the program each week.

“The kids get to know each other and learn different things,” she said. “They bring things home to hang on the refrigerator and they want to try and plant things they learn to plant here. I’ve learned a lot of things through them.”

Estes’ niece Lakwesha said the best thing about Kids Café is “all of it.”

“I like to have fun and make stuff,” she said. “I really like to eat with my sister.”

The Kids Café runs through the school year from August through May and is open to any school-aged child. Parents who volunteer also get to share in the meal at the end of each program.


Monty Chappell  859-257-2716