UTAH (ABC4) – One in 10 U.S. homes now face food insecurity, and the White House is planning to provide more children with free school meals and EBT benefits to more children and expand SNAP to fight food insecurity nationwide. Utah is not immune. No Kid Hungry reports that 16 percent of children in the state come from homes that are food insecure. In Ogden, a program called Youth Impact works to feed as many of those children as possible. However, the program needs a new kitchen.
Tucked away in downtown Ogden is Youth Impact.
“Overall, we just want this to be a safe place for them to be a kid, stay off the street and just come in and have fun with friends, and learn how to socialize, so that – like I said – they can be very successful once they leave our doors,” Alison Thompson Conde told ABC4. She is the child and family advocate for the organization.
The program is nearly 30 years old and has been serving at-risk children all that time. Conde told ABC4 that 147 children are currently enrolled in the program.
The program is unique in that the children are picked up from their school and taken to the organization’s location in downtown Ogden. Once there, they have access to tutoring, music classes, art classes, STEM classes, and a whole slew of activities. At the end of the night, the children are dropped off at home.
The goal of the program is to help the children understand the potential they have and become good, productive members of society after they graduate from high school. However, for the children to do well in their studies and other extracurricular activities, they need to be fed.
“We feed them a full course dinner every single night,” Conde stated. “We have an amazing chef here. He’s doing a culinary school with some of the kids. It’s just flat out amazing. This is home.” If it weren’t for the dinner the children get at Youth Impact, many would simply go without. Teaching them how to cook also serves a purpose: it teaches them a life skill while possibly introducing them to a career path they didn’t know existed.
There are more than 100 kids who are fed daily. It’s a huge undertaking. Taking on such a big task comes with challenges.
The kitchen is small. It wasn’t built to serve so many people. There isn’t a lot of counterspace (especially if children are going to be in the kitchen learning how to cook), there are only two stove tops (one is an industrial-style stove but was out of service until just recently), there is no dishwasher, and there is hardly any storage space for food.
To keep up with the demands of the growing program, the organization needs $300,000 to install an adequate, commercial-sized kitchen.
“It definitely became a lifeline because the kids obviously get off at three o’clock every day and work is until five,” Brenda Gerena told ABC4. Gerena is highly involved in Youth Impact. Years ago, she was a single mother who worked fulltime. Her children joined the program so that they’d have a safe place to be after school. Gerena fell in love with Youth Impact.
“We have raised $200,000 for the kitchen remodel,” Gerena stated. Five years ago, she began putting on a casino night for the community to raise money for the remodel. The first event raised over $30,000 and has grown every year since.
In the last five years, the need for the kitchen has become even greater and so has food insecurity in the area.
“Our families are being affected the most with entire families becoming homeless,” explained Gerena. At the onset of the pandemic, Youth Impact created a community pantry. It was supposed to be a temporary fixture to help those in need during a period in which many people couldn’t work. However, as the pandemic cooled, inflation created a new set of problems for many families. “When the kids are not there the community can come in and pick up food and diapers and whatever household items are available for them.”
Other programs and organizations help keep the pantry stocked. For now, it appears it may be a permanent fixture at Youth Impact.
This year’s casino night was held on September 29. It was hosted at the Monarch building on 25th Street in Ogden. Gerena told ABC4 that the event now draws in around 300 people. Sponsors account for the largest portion of the donations, but the public helps raise thousands of dollars during the event. The goal for this year is $80,000.
You can donate to Youth Impact by clicking here. You can donate to specific programs within Youth Impact. If you choose for your donation to go to “Casino Night,” it will go towards building the new kitchen.
Gerena said the organization’s roof needs repairs, so she plans to continue Casino Night until it is fixed as well.