In 2013, there were 45.3 million people in poverty in the United States. For a little bit of perspective, it should be noted that there were 37.3 million people in poverty in 2007. That’s a 21% increase in poverty in the past eight years. That’s also around 14% of our population that fall just at or below the poverty line, meaning that 14% of our population is struggling with food shortages. This was a big problem to 13-year-old Kylee McCumber, so she decided to do something about it.
With an initial goal of feeding ten kids per week in her hometown of Leominster, Massachusetts, Kylee is now feeding about 200 kids per week with her “Kare Kits”. Kylee’s Kare Kits for Kidz are made up of community-donated non-perishable foods that are handed out every Friday to children in Leominster who do not have readily accessible food on the weekends, when they’re not in school.
She may be starting on a smaller scale, focusing her efforts in her Massachusetts community, but this is only the beginning for Kylee. Kylee has big goals and dreams for her nonprofit, and I believe we can expect to see big things from this ambitious young lady. I asked Kylee some questions about her mission to fight hunger. Check out her inspiring responses.
Tell me about the day you first realized there was a hunger problem in your own community. What went through your mind, and what did you do?
When I was ten years old and in the fourth grade I noticed children eating breakfast in the cafeteria at my school before school started. I asked my grandmother why they were there, because I never ate breakfast at school. That is when I found out that many of those children would not have breakfast if they didn’t get it at school! At first I didn’t believe my grandmother but after I spoke with my principal I found out it was true. I was told that many of the children depended on the breakfast and lunch at school for the food they would eat that day and that they may not have anything else to eat until they returned to school. I told my principal, “Shame on the adults for letting that happen!” I worried what they did on the weekend when they weren’t in school or when it was vacation time or summer break! I told my principal that I wanted to do something to help them. She told me that if I could come up with an idea that she would let me do it.
How did this nonprofit start? What happened after you went to your principal with your concern?
I spoke with my grandmother and I started to do research trying to find a way to help. I came up with the idea of a “kare kit” of food that I would provide to the kids every Friday before they left school for the weekend. That is when Kylee’s Kare Kits for Kidz was born!
What was your biggest goal for your nonprofit?
My original goal was to help 10 kids each week. I spoke to my grandmother about having a yard sale to raise the money to buy the food for the Kare Kits. I decided to sell all my old clothes and toys that were stored in our attic in order to raise the money to buy the food for the Kare Kits. I had two yard sales that summer and raised $1100. I used the money to purchase food and the first week I provided Kare Kits to 8 children.
My biggest goal is to see that no child goes to bed hungry. I started wanting to provide Kare Kits to ten children and in less than three years I am providing them to over 200 food-insecure children each week. As I continue to raise funds I am able to add additional children to my mission. Last year, Unilever brightFuture approached me to be recognized as a Bright Future Grant recipient. You can see a snapshot of our partnership here. Unilever is committed to making the world a better place, and they share my vision to eliminate child hunger. Through the Unilever Bright Future Grant, I was able to fund additional Kare Kits!
What have been some of the challenges you’ve faced starting and running a nonprofit?
One of the challenges that I have faced is getting people to realize that there are hunger issues in their own communities. I was amazed at the number of people that had put blinders on to the fact that hunger existed in their communities! You do not need a passport to feed the hunger. Look around and you will see it exists in your own town!
Another challenge was dealing with people who felt that because some of the children’s parents may have substance abuse issues or not be employed that they do not deserve to receive help. I tell them that it isn’t the children’s fault and they should not be hungry. I also tell these people that I hope they never find themselves in a situation where they are hungry and need help.
I also have the challenge of needing to raise the money to purchase the food each week. It currently costs about $900 a week and it can be challenging to continually raise the money to sustain my mission.
Can you tell me about one particularly rewarding or memorable moment since the launch of your nonprofit?
One of the most rewarding moments for me was when we held our first ice cream social at a local shelter. We provided Kare Kits to all the children living there. There were approximately 200 children living there at the time. We brought bubbles, sidewalk chalk, jump ropes, hula-hoops, baseballs and bats, squirt guns, coloring books & crayons, books, gently used clothing and toys for the children. We brought ice cream for everyone too! We had one child who had never had ice cream before that day and another who ate eight bowls of ice cream that afternoon! My team and I along with other volunteers from the community helped to serve the ice cream, hand out the things we brought for the kids and played games with the kids. Many of the families thanked us for everything we did for them that day. They couldn’t believe that we would do something like that for them. It was a very rewarding day to see the smiles on the children’s faces. It was hard to believe that such small gestures of kindness could make such a difference in the children’s lives. Some of the families that are still living there have asked us if we could do that again so we are having our second annual ice cream social in July and we will be adding a barbecue this year too!
What are your plans for the future of your nonprofit?
I plan to continue to bring awareness to the issue of child hunger and will work hard to raise the money to continue my mission until no child goes to bed hungry. I hope the awareness will inspire others to join us in our fight against child hunger and would love to see the Kare Kit mission to spread to other communities.
What would be your advice to other young girls who have big ideas and dreams?
My advice to other young girls who have big ideas or dreams is to not let anyone discourage you. If you feel that you can do something to change things for the better in our world then just go with it! You may make mistakes or stumble along the way but you would only fail if you didn’t try! I also have learned that it is so much better to give than to receive!