I walked into the place where all the culinary magic happens
one Wednesday afternoon. The Kids Cafe
is our response to the child hunger epidemic.
Every day Kids Cafe sends out 1,000 meals to various locations
throughout Amarillo. The program is in
its 11th year and is just one of the best things around!
Recently, the Kids Cafe kitchen needed some help from staff
members because the summer meal program really has a hectic schedule. They are up serving breakfast at 5:30am and
finish dinner service around 5:30pm. Oh,
and on top of that crazy schedule, they are preparing to move into their new
kitchen that’s opening in September.
Needless to say, this has been quite the busy summer for the staff.
I walked in and started by prepping the next day’s
meals. I sliced oranges, and prepped
rice and the list went on and on. There
is really only one prep station so you must clean up immediately to start the
next phase. Really only one person can
prep at a time because the quarters are so close together. This is less efficient, and is a source of
stress when you’re on the deadlines the Kids Cafe must meet every day.
Then I began to wash dishes.
The sink is on one side and the garbage disposal is on the other. I found myself walking back and forth a lot;
and it seemed a little bit cumbersome to me.
Leigh, the Kids Cafe Director, showed me how the three compartment sink
worked and more importantly how it didn't work.
I asked about the divided sink situation and she smiled a big smile and
said, “Oh, it’s tough, but only until September.” Leigh has been at the Food Bank for 10 years
and has had the fortune, or misfortune of working in 6 different kitchens in
her tenure. She has a book of thoughts
where she’s recorded her wish list of things for the new kitchen. She knows from experience just what is needed
to make the Kids Cafe successful. As we
prepped more of the meals for the next day, Leigh kept pointing out how it will
be different in the new kitchen. “See
how we are sharing space as I prep the entree and you’re getting the rolls together,
“Leigh said. “In the new kitchen we will have more than one space to do this.”
After we prepped more I began putting away dried dishes. I had to roll the cambros out of the way
first. These are huge thermal storage
units on carts that are used to keep the meal components hot or cold while in
route to the serving location. Leigh again
laughed at me as I fumbled around acting as if I knew what I was doing. “That will be different in the new kitchen
too, “Leigh said. “We will have space to line these around the wall, and they
would not need to be in the middle of the room.”
I realized at that moment that we needed the new kitchen,
not just to increase meals but to make the important work of the program
possible. Needless to say, when the new
kitchen opens I will have insight in to just how monumental this is to the