WTOL – Toledo’s Connecting Kids to Meals gets national recognition

Connecting Kids to Meals’ President & CEO, Wendi Huntley, is one of 12 No Kid Hungry’s 2023 Out of School Time Meals Champion National cohorts.

TOLEDO, Ohio — Connecting Kids to Meals is a nonprofit that has been serving the greater Toledo area for close to 20 years. Its current President & CEO, Wendi Huntley, has been at the helm for seven years and is being recognized for her efforts with the nonprofit on a national level.

The reason for the spotlight? All the work the organization has done.

According to Connecting Kids to Meals, one in four kids in Lucas County deals with childhood hunger and 40% live in poverty. When looking at the national numbers, Ohio is among eight states which consistently rank higher than the national average for food insecurity.

“The last three years, we’ve been averaging about 750,000 meals,” Huntley said.

Huntley is one of 12 people in the U.S. to be named a No Kid Hungry’s 2023 Out of School Time Meals Champion Natio023nal Cohort. This year, all 12 cohorts will gather to share ideas on how to improve summer and afterschool meal programs.

“We’re viewed as experts, so, we’re being asked to share our expertise and our successes with others around the country,” Huntley said.

The 11 other cohorts are:

  • Michelle Poirier, Jurupa Unified School District, CA
  • Alexandra Molina, McAllen ISD, TX
  • Andrea Garcia Schoelzel, Office of Children’s Affairs, City and County of Denver, CO
  • Mary Rose Vanas, Shelby Public Schools, MI
  • Debra Davidson, Arkansas City Recreation Commission, KS
  • Maggie Lynch, MetroWest YMCA, MA
  • Annette Dove, TOPPS, AR
  • Jamie Kocsondy, Missoula Food Bank & Community Center, MT
  • Kara Moore, Lowcountry Foodbank, SC
  • Michael Clark, Crane School District, AZ
  • Tony Windsor, Boys & Girls Clubs of Delaware, DE

Huntley said she was told this is the first time Ohio has been included. While celebrating, Connecting Kids to Meals has still had to deal with hardships. The Monroe Street nonprofit’s water pipe burst early in the last week of January, shutting down all hot meal prep for two days.

But, Huntley still found a way to feed the kids by serving donated weekend snack packs instead of hot meals.

She said hunger can create a ripple effect for the nearly 60,000 kids who qualify for free or reduced lunches, just in Lucas County alone.

Huntley said those kids rely on those meals “in order to get through the day and to be able to learn academically.”

“Without food, you’re not going to be able to focus, and the behavioral and health components are attached to it,” she said.

Though sometimes the fridge or shelves look low on supplies, Huntley said they’re never without and will always find a way, because Connecting Kids to Meals is more than just a nonprofit.

“If there’s one child that shows up to the library or Boys & Girls Club that doesn’t know where their next meal is coming from, I feel I’ve done my job,” Huntley said.

Thanks to WTOL for their continued coverage of Connecting Kids to Meals. To see the full story, click here.