Hungry Kids Project founder honored

Ron Barnes, middle, and his wife Betsy accept Yavapai Food Council’s Hunger Hero Award from Harvey Grady, board chairman of the Yavapai Food Council.

Photo by Max Efrein.

Ron Barnes, middle, and his wife Betsy accept Yavapai Food Council’s Hunger Hero Award from Harvey Grady, board chairman of the Yavapai Food Council.

One morning in late 2009, Betsy Barnes saw an article in the Arizona Republic telling about how women at a school in Mesa were preparing food packages for the school children in need of meals for their weekends.

That sparked curiosity in her husband Ron Barnes to find out what the food need was for children in the school systems within the quad cities.

He was shocked to find there was a tremendous need and no one was doing anything about it.

When the new school superintendent of Prescott Unified School District arrived the summer of 2010, Barnes met with him and said “we’re going to feed your hungry kids on the weekend.”

He quickly mapped out a plan, started recruiting volunteers, collected donations and named the effort the Hungry Kids Project.

Now, every week during the school year, Barnes and the 100-plus volunteers of the nonprofit raise money and purchase nutritious food to provide hundreds of area children with weekend meals.

“Just to give you an idea, this past week we fed around 500 kids who were identified as having no food or very little food for the weekend,” Barnes said.

Then, to assist in the summer months, the organization reached out to area leaders such as Brad Fain to obtain plots of land to form community gardens. The organization currently has one such garden in Prescott and another in Prescott Valley. The two gardens produce about 8,000 pounds of fresh produce.

Just in Prescott, the organization serves 500 lunches and 400 breakfasts every Monday through Friday throughout the summer. To maintain the effort, the nonprofit has to raise at least $100,000 every year.

To recognize his accomplishments, the Yavapai Food Council honored Barnes with a Hunger Hero Award on Saturday in the parking lot of the Prescott Wal-Mart on Gail Gardner Way.

“I know where his heart is and he’s delivered the goods, so it was a natural decision to give him this award,” said Harvey Grady, Yavapai Food Council board chairman.

The Yavapai Food Council began a very similar mission to the Hungry Kids Project in 2009.

“How do you get food to hungry people?” Grady said. “We discovered the way to do that is to supply extra food to the food banks.”

Volunteers collect food donations from their neighbors every two months and package and deliver those donations to local food banks and school’s food supplement programs.

“It’s not a flash in the pan,” Grady said. “We now have over 1,500 food donors.”

To learn more about, donate to, or join the Yavapai Food Council, visit YavapaiFoodCouncil.org.