FLCC seeking bigger kitchen to serve mealsWritten by Patrick Timmis | | email@example.com
Toledo Free Press will focus a six-week series on the mission of Feed Lucas County Children (FLCC). From July 3 to July 17, Walt Churchill’s markets will participate in a “Round Up Hunger” campaign to raise funds for FLCC. Customers can contribute to a child’s meal by rounding up the change for their purchases to the next dollar. That money will go directly to FLCC’s meal fund.
Tony Siebeneck needs a new kitchen.
The summer he founded Feed Lucas County Children (FLCC) in 2002, the charity provided about 7,200 meals to impoverished, hungry local children. Last summer, FLCC provided 242,000 meals.
That growth pales in comparison to the remaining need.
In Lucas County, 29,962 children younger than 18 — 27.4 percent — live at or below the poverty line, according to the U.S. Census.
During the school year, the National School Lunch Program ensures at least one meal a day for them. But that program halts during the long summer break. More and more children have turned to FLCC to fill the gap in the past 10 years, and Siebeneck said the operation has grown steadily in scale.
Now, FLCC is rapidly approaching its physical capacity. Its clean stainless steel kitchen can comfortably turn out 8,000 meals per day, Siebeneck said. He is not interested in overloading, which could result in sloppiness, mistakes and poor food preparation.
That means FLCC will soon have to turn away hungry mouths if demand for meals continues to grow at anywhere near the current rate.
“We need a bigger kitchen to go after more kids,” Siebeneck said.
FLCC rents about 3,200 square feet in the old Macomber High School, a massive three-story building that Siebeneck said needs a few million dollars in repairs to make any more of its space usable as a kitchen.
The organization also uses a 6,500 -square-foot cafeteria adjoining the kitchen as a staging site for volunteers to package the meals before leaving to deliver them. Siebeneck does not rent the space, and said he told the landlord to consider it a donation to the children. So far, the building’s owner has allowed FLCC to use the space gratis, but situation’s impermanence makes Siebeneck uneasy.
The kitchen has also maxed out the outdated electrical system and its gas line, Siebeneck said. It would be senseless to pour so much money into a building FLCC does not even own, he said, so he is looking to build a new kitchen or renovate a building more suited to his needs.
He estimated the project would cost about $2 million for a new building or $900,000 for a renovation — money that would all have to come from private donations.
“The philanthropy in this county could make this kitchen happen in a heartbeat,” Siebeneck said.
With a larger kitchen, Siebeneck said FLCC could easily distribute 10,000 meals a day, with 500,000 a realistic number for the summer. FLCC would also have the ability to operate as more of a community kitchen, allowing other agencies to utilize freezer space and distribute food there to whole families, rather than to only FLCC’s children. Each meal costs FLCC $1.40.
“You can see he’s completely growing out of his place there,” said Deb Vas, executive director of Toledo Seagate Food Bank. She said a centralized kitchen would be great for the county.
Patrice Powers-Barker at OSU Extension said the kitchen could be a site for classes to teach low-income families basic nutrition, food safety and how to prepare and stretch food.
“There’s too much greed,” Siebeneck said. “There needs to be a little bit more compassion about helping each other and helping other charities, and that’s what we do best.”