Nonprofit: Kids’ Meals Inc.

Location: Houston, TX

Mission: Kids’ Meals mission is to end childhood hunger in Houston by delivering free, healthy meals, year-round to the doorsteps of Houston’s hungriest preschool-aged children and through collaboration provide their families with resources to end the cycle of poverty.

Highlighted Giving Event: Kids’ Meals Juice Box Challenge

Summer is by far the busiest season for Kids’ Meals Inc., a nonprofit dedicated to ending childhood hunger in Houston. During the school year the organization delivers free meals daily to preschool-aged kids (5 and under) who don’t have access to free lunch through school. But during the summer, operations are expanded to include meals for the school aged siblings who face food insecurity without free school lunch. The operation is enormous; Kids’ Meals projects to deliver more than 602,000 free, healthy meals to hungry children between June 1 and August 31.

Home delivery is integral to Kids’ Meals’ goal of connecting families with resources to end the cycle of poverty. Their fleet includes 17 vans that travel about 300 miles a week, making 100 – 200 stops per day. Drivers are Kids’ Meals’ employees and because of their daily interaction with the community and relationships with families, they are able act as case workers, assessing need and making referrals for additional services through other agencies. “Our drivers are invested in the well-being of the children and the families they visit,” Chris Nelson, Kids’ Meals Inc.’s Communications and Development Coordinator, states. “These relationships can be a real lifeline for struggling families who may not even know of services that could help them.”

Each kids’ meal includes a protein, snack, fruit, and drink. The protein item is made at Kids’ Meals locations to save on costs. The most expensive part of the meal is the 100% juice drink, and they need approximately 10,000 juice boxes a day, 5 days a week, during the summer. The Kids’ Meals Annual Juice Box Challenge helps them with this massive effort. Six years ago, they added an online option with YouGiveGoods and they have been building momentum ever since.

“YouGiveGoods makes it so simple for our sponsors to create their own page supporting the cause,” Chris explains. Chris also points to other benefits including the convenience of online shopping, the ease of social sharing, and the fact that without the barrier of logistics many more people can get involved. As the partnership has evolved, efficiencies such as shipping donations throughout the event, have also helped with the program’s success. From boy scout troops to religious organizations to major corporations, all can support the cause with the ease of YouGiveGoods.  They already have more sponsors on the virtual challenge this year than ever before with 38 sponsors to date and counting!

Chris cites the element of competition as the biggest driving factor in the success of the Juice Box Challenge. Teams compete to win Juice Box Champion, Best in Show and Most Vocal Awards. On the  Juice Box Challenge event page sponsors can view in real-time how they are doing in relation to other teams and urge supporters to help them on to victory.

And now more than ever, they’ll take support wherever and however they can get it. It’s been an exceptionally rough few years for Kids’ Meals which saw a 138% increase in need in one day at the dawn of the pandemic. Now, just as the rebound from the pandemic was evolving, unprecedented inflation hit. Chris explains, “Since our model of home meal delivery not only includes the cost of food but also fuel, we’ve really been blindsided by unforeseen costs. We’ll need approximately $20,000 of extra dollars for food and fuel that wasn’t accounted for in our budget.”

Kids’ Meals, like so many other nonprofits, is scrambling to meet increased need amid rising costs. The delivery of essential items helps to save cash for other areas of operations, but YouGiveGoods has proven valuable on another front – as a first foot in the door for supporters. Someone who shops or sponsors a YouGiveGoods juice box drive may decide to then join in person for a volunteer day and even eventually become a financial partner.

And remember every sponsored drive is earning Kids’ Meals 5% cash back from YouGiveGoods. Last year the YouGiveGoods Kids’ Meals Juice Box Challenge raised 106,008 juice boxes and with almost 67,000 purchased to date this year, they are already well on their way to another record-breaking year.