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The City Journals

Murray-born charity KidsEat outgrows its current home

Jun 03, 2019 03:19PM ● By Shaun Delliskave

Leaders of KidsEat and organizations that receive KidsEat backpacks (l-r): Lynda Brown; Geoff Partain; Carolyn Haskins, DDI Head Start; Joy Sanford, principal McMillan Elementary; Bob Dunn, Boys & Girls Clubs. (Photo courtesy KidsEat)

By Shaun Delliskave | [email protected]

When demand outpaces supply that is usually a good thing. However, when you are the Murray-born charity KidsEat, which addresses food insecurity in children, high demand means there are more hungry kids needing help. Demand for KidsEat services is exceeding what they can provide; and to try and meet that demand, they are pulling out all the stops.

KidsEat is growing and needs to relocate to a larger building from which to distribute food, which works out well for their landlord, Murray City. KidsEat’s current offices are housed in the former Creekside School. That building is slated to be mothballed by the city and eventually razed to make way for new development. 

One of KidsEat’s corporate partners, USANA, has been generous and has volunteered to provide the charity with space in a building they own near the USANA campus. At the end of May, KidsEat will move its operations into the USANA warehouse, temporarily, until their new digs are ready for occupancy later this summer.  

“This is just part of USANA's support of KidsEat,” said KidsEat Executive Director Geoff Partain. “Over the past year, USANA employees, through their donations to the True Health Foundation (USANA's philanthropic arm), have paid for enough food to fill nearly 9,000 backpacks of food. Then they volunteered their time to fill the backpacks and distribute them to some of the schools we support. USANA is committed to continuing their support of KidsEat, and combined with help from other organizations, businesses, and especially caring individuals in our community, we are able to feed more than 850 children each week. Sadly, many thousands need our help.” 

KidsEat, founded by Lynda Brown, started as a post-retirement, keep-busy project, but has had to change and readjust as an organization to meet growing community needs. Even with larger corporate backers like USANA, the charity still depends on donations from community groups, churches and fundraisers, like its Help Us Bloom Garden Party being held June 15.

“KidsEat hasn't really reorganized, we've just grown,” Partain said. “As KidsEat became too big for one person to do everything, I started picking up the slack. Then, as Lynda's health became an issue, I took on more responsibility. At one point, we received a substantial grant that stipulated that some of the funds were to be used to hire someone to help with administrative and fundraising tasks, and that person was me. I began receiving a very small stipend to satisfy that grant's requirements. That's when the board hired me as executive director of KidsEat.”

Brown and Partain belonged to an organization that met in the back room of a bar, where speakers would present information on various issues. She told Partain about the organization she was forming, and Partain said he'd love to help.  

“I've been with her ever since. Because of my management experience, my extensive experience with nonprofits and my flexible schedule, I had the time, and skill set to be of use to Lynda and KidsEat,” Partain said.

Partain has extensive experience with many volunteer organizations, including arts, political, civil rights and health organizations. Currently, he also works with the Utah Arts Festival, the Utah Arts Alliance and the Democratic Party.

What was started as a service for the Murray Boys & Girls Club now receives requests for aid from throughout Salt Lake Valley. KidsEat has grown beyond providing weekend meals to Murray School District kids and is now working with neighboring Granite and Salt Lake School districts. 

“The outlook is bleak. Even in this time of low unemployment, wages are still low, and the wage gap between upper management and everyone else is widening. In most cases, families cannot live on, and prosper with, the income of a single working parent,” Partain said. “A vast number of parents are living paycheck to paycheck, and one unexpected expense or missed paycheck is enough to send a family into a financial downward spiral.”