Adrea Lund, head of Children and Teen Services, hands out free meals to Kids Cafe participants at the Grand County Public Library. All children 17 years of age and younger are invited to enjoy these nutritionally-balanced meals after the school day has ended and as lunches on Saturdays. [Photo by Robin Eno / Moab Sun News]

Proper nutrition and a full stomach are mandatory for successful learning. Now that the school year is in full swing, Moab children can wrap up a day at school and prepare for evening study by first enjoying a delicious, nutritious and free meal at the Grand County Public Library.

Head of Children and Teen Services Adrea Lund greets children and their families with a big smile on her face as they enter the library children’s room. Lund proudly stands behind a table filled with neatly displayed brown-bagged meals. After Lund describes the two different meals offered, children choose one bag and sit at large tables to dig in and socialize.

Not only that, but if a child is still hungry after the meal, a “share table” in the room offers additional foods and beverages that the children can take.

DeNae Shaner and her daughter Adalynne were pleasantly surprised to learn about the program’s existence.

“We came to the library yesterday, and we didn’t know about the lunch,” said DeNae, a Moab resident since 2015. “They offered lunch to us, and Adalynne loved it.”

“The response from the kids and the caregivers who have attended our summer lunches for the last three weeks has been great,” said Lund.

The meals are available to any child under 18, regardless of their family’s income.

The meals are nutritionally balanced to meet the needs of the children. The packaged meals contain items like nut butters, applesauce, hummus dip, cheese sticks and 100% veggie juice or a milk.

Adalynne was partial to the wheat-bread tortillas.

“I like dipping the tortilla into the sauce,” explained Adalynne. Her four-year-old brother said that he likes the juices.

“We’ve served about 300 meals to children since we started about three weeks ago,” said Lund.

These same delicious meals will now be served as after-school dinners from 3:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and from noon to 1 p.m. on Saturday.

“This morning,” said DeNae, “around 10 a.m., Adalynne told me, ‘Mom, get your shoes on, we’re going to miss lunch!’ She was very excited to come (and eat the food) again.”

“Now that the school year has begun,” Lund said, “we hope to provide even more meals to our community’s children.”

To make this goal a reality, additional volunteers are needed.

“Since we anticipate higher attendance once we start serving after school, we would love to find a few good volunteers to help with this program,” Lund said.

Kids Cafe volunteers will partner with library staff and spend about 1.5 hours helping set up, serve and clean up after the meal. The program prefers volunteers who can commit to volunteering at least one day per week for a three-month block of time.

Interested in becoming a volunteer? No food service skills are needed, since all the meals are delivered completely assembled to the library.

The Kids Cafe meal program is a partnership between the Grand County Public Library and the Utah Food Bank and will run throughout the school year.

What: Kids Cafe free after-school meals

When: Monday to Friday from 3:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m., Saturdays from noon to 1:00 p.m.

Where: Grand County Public Library, 257 E Center St.

Cost: Free

For More Information: Please call Adrea Lund, head of Children and Teen Services, at 435-259-1111.