All great nonprofit work must start somewhere. For USANA Kids Eat, that work began in Lynda Brown’s basement as part of KidsEat! Utah and, separately, with Michelle Benedict and her organization Kids Next Door.
Lynda, a longtime supporter of a local Boys & Girls Club, learned of children stealing extra snacks to bring home for the weekend because they had little to eat. So in February 2015, Lynda began packing a handful of backpacks with two breakfasts, two lunches, and three dinners, paying for everything out of her own pocket.
Working with staff and volunteers at the Boys & Girls Club, they identified children in need of weekend meals and encouraged them to take a backpack home on Fridays.
Likewise, Michelle, now director of global programs with the USANA Foundation, was looking for ways to teach her kids about philanthropy. After hearing that some local students went hungry over long school breaks, she provided them with food bags to take with them.
Independently, both Michelle and Lynda’s organizations expanded.
Growing from concept to organization
For the next few years, Lynda’s concept grew from feeding five kids at the Boys & Girls Club to providing backpacks to children at the Neighborhood House, DDI Head Start, and more than 30 schools throughout the Salt Lake Valley. She eventually moved the operation out of her basement and into a space owned by Murray School District.
By 2018, word had gotten out about KidsEat! When USANA Foundation employees heard about it, they eagerly partnered with Lynda’s organization.
Through Kids Next Door, families and individuals pledged a certain number of bags, shopped for the items, packaged them, and made deliveries to schools. More schools and volunteers got involved, united by the goal to keep local students from experiencing food insecurity.
In 2019, USANA acquired both KidsEat! and Kids Next Door, merging them into USANA Kids Eat. Food packs were initially held in USANA’s Home Office warehouse. Soon after, Kids Eat moved into its own space just north of USANA’s main building.
We are proud to say that the legacy Lynda and Michelle built—starting with just a handful of backpacks—has grown into a massive venture impacting thousands of children throughout northern Utah.
And it’s greatly needed as much today as it was when they started their nonprofits.
One in nine children are hungry in Utah
According to the Utah Food Bank, one in nine Utah children are going hungry. That means nearly 14,000 students in Salt Lake City schools are unsure of where their next meal will come from.
With the help of the USANA Foundation, corporate sponsors, and private donors, Kids Eat now supports 84 schools in the Murray, Canyons, Jordan, Granite, and Salt Lake City school districts. We provide more than 444,000 meals to nearly 7,000 kids per year!
During the school year, many children depend on school meals for breakfast and lunch. But when the school day ends or the weekend comes, there’s no guarantee of food to eat at home. Kids Eat weekend food bags give each child non-perishable and easily prepared foods to guarantee a weekend of meals.
“The kids we serve are just like all other kids,” says Stephen Cook, USANA Kids Eat senior program manager. “They’re trying to do well in school, play with friends, go out for sports or clubs, but they’re doing it with no energy. Most of them receive free breakfast and lunch from the school Monday through Friday, but over the weekend often have no food. This makes it so hard for them to focus, so we make sure they have the nutrition they need to succeed.”
USANA employees and the public volunteer their time through food bag packs and the Holiday Bag Project—a holdover from Kids Next Door. The Holiday Bag Project is specifically designed for long winter breaks when children are out of school.
“There are many reasons families may find themselves needing our program,” Stephen says. “People are struggling. Food is expensive, and often parents have to decide whether to put gas in the car to get to work or get food on the table for their kids. This puts them in a no-win situation. We help these families so they don’t have to make those decisions.”
We’re ending malnutrition for good
While the Foundation and Kids Eat want to end malnutrition for good in their own community and around the world, they understand it will take time before no child goes hungry. And there are many ways you can help too.
Volunteering your time or becoming a monthly donor for children in need helps this program get even more meals into the hands of hungry kids.