The Kind Mouse - A Food Pantry that Inspires Children to Become Intentional about Helping their Neighbors in Need

What if children learned how to find their "creative purpose" by intentionally helping their peers and ending weekend hunger?

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Founding Story: Share a story about a key experience or spark that helps the network understand why this project got started or a story about how you became inspired about the potential for this project to succeed.

As the decline of the secure, blue collar, middle class family came closer to home in the fall of 2011, hardworking people in our neighborhood were losing everything due to a combination of things: the economy, lack of knowledge on where to turn for help, and their fear of being seen as failures. The CBS 60 Minutes story “Hard Times Generation: Homeless Kids” inspired us to help many of our former coworkers and neighbors – that were now hungry and, in some cases, homeless. When I learned there were hungry children in my neighborhood that were possibly victims of this economic downturn, I wanted to make a terrible situation brighter. My first step was to contact the local school board to see how I could help. They asked me to provide food to feed five students who were the ‘hungriest of the hungry.’ Although the identity of the children was unknown, my desire to assist was overwhelming. Over time, I expanded our ability to continue serving in this capacity by founding The Kind Mouse Productions, Inc. as a not-for-profit organization, receiving its 501(c)3 status on May 10, 2012. The organization operates out of a brick and mortar building in Saint Petersburg, Florida and relies on volunteers, collaborative alliances with other nonprofits and corporate sponsors, grants, and in-kind donations to accomplish its mission. But this year, something wonderful happened. The youngest children in our volunteer program wanted to do more and take charge. Mice in Training was born.

Which categories describe you? (the answer will not be public)

  • White (for example: German, Irish, English, Italian, Polish, French, Caucasian)
  • Self-identify race, ethnicity, or origin

If you chose to self-identify your race, ethnicity, or origin, please share here: (the answer will not be public)

We serve all hungry children regardless or race or religion.

Website

http://www.thekindmouse.org/

Location: Where is your organization headquartered? [State]

  • Florida

Location: Where is your organization headquartered? [City]

Saint Petersburg

Location: Where is your project primarily creating impact? [State]

  • Florida

Location: Where is your project primarily creating impact? [City]

Saint Petersburg

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

Our project address is the lack of hope in children whose immediate need is wondering where their next meal will come from. Children can not have a strong of self if they are hungry or if they feel alone. Our mission is to assist families in transition and their chronically hungry children. No hardworking individual should ever feel despair due to economic hardships beyond their control. Estimates indicate that approximately 8,000 children in our county are living with food insecurities. With the help of the Pinellas County School Board (PCSB), the Mouse Nibbles Weekend Feeding Program feeds the “The Hungriest of The Hungry” students in Tampa Bay every week. Through our goal-oriented solutions, our Mice in Training youth will learn that they have a voice and sense of purpose by helping their peers who might go to bed hungry at night.

If every child in the United States grew up exposed to the problems facing their peers within their schools, we believe it would provide a nurturing opportunity for them to get involved. Their young minds would be exposed to valuable lessons.

Children are our future leaders. They are compassionate, caring and have a need to solve the world’s problems. Every child has seen a picture of a starving child in the developing world on television. What if they knew that a starving child lived in their own neighborhood? What if they found out that one of their classmates went home for the weekend and would not receive a single meal? 

We at The Kind Mouse feel it is important to involve the entire community in our mission’s efforts. For the sustainability of our cause, we believe the solution lies in our Outreach Programs; Mice in Training and Mice Interns. These programs engage young people, ages 5-18, and provide an opportunity for them to better themselves and their communities through non-profit, service-based entrepreneurship.

Positive peer-to-peer engagement is a key component to our Outreach Programs. The older Mice Interns volunteer for a number of reasons, including their desire to achieve the required community service hours for school or potential scholarships. Mice in Training, under the age of 12, recognize that they, too, have a voice -- no matter how small. They learn by example and by involving the younger children in community service, they have the chance to witness the work of the older "Mice" as they actively engage and participate in all activities. 

Mice in Training and Mice Interns are being groomed to be “The Voice of The Children” –  the voice of the children we serve and to give hope where there is none. The children run food drives, organize events, budget, purchase and pack the food as well as participate in public speaking at local civic engagements. They deliver food to the schools and to other nonprofits that are in collaboration with us to feed hungry children. Over the summer the pantry is open 4 days a week to these students to earn service hours as well as learn the workings of a nonprofit. They have their own Board with a President, Vice President, Secretary, Treasurer, with committee heads for events, video and media as well as bi-monthly board meetings.

The children in our program who receive our Mouse Nibbles food sacks do not have names. They are protected. Names are significant and one day when they take that step out of poverty they can tell their story and share their name. Names are significant and lend to the identity and dignity of people. One day, this child may want to give back to their own community based upon their personal experiences as a recipient of The Kind Mouse program.

The most promising aspects of our program for ensuring children grow up with a strong sense of self, purpose, and belonging lies in their voices. Our "Mice" have an idea to open a food pantry in every school. A school extracurricular activity, like a Chess Club, would be formed and the children would take  responsibility for the program -- from running food drives, organizing events and fundraisers, budgeting, purchasing and packing the food as well as public speaking. If each school did this, weekend hunger would be a thing of the past. We believe in our youth and we see this idea catching on in schools across the country.  





Is your model focused on any of the following traditionally underserved communities?

  • No, not explicitly

Does your model work within any of the following sectors?

  • Child and Family Services
  • Community Development and Empowerment
  • Education

Year Founded

2012

Project Stage

  • Established (the solution has passed the previous stages, and has demonstrated success)

Example: Walk the network through a specific example of what happens when a person or group engages with your solution.

The Kind Mouse is the sole provider of emergency food provisions to the social services program, Jane’s Pantry, administered by the Pinellas County Schools social services team. We support Jane's Pantry along with The Homeless Education Advocacy Team (HEAT) by providing three days' worth of food for every child requiring critical attention. On average 25 individual food insecure students are served weekly. Our Mouse Nibbles Weekend Feeding Program exists to satisfy the hunger needs of food insecure children so they can concentrate on being successful in school. Our youth volunteers pack a minimum of 350 food sacks for distribution to the schools. These children have a budget and learn to shop and purchase the food required for the program.

Impact: What was the impact of your work last year? Please also describe the projected future impact for the coming years.

In 2014, Kind Mouse was recognized by Woman’s Day Magazine Online as “One of Nine Hunger Heroes of The Nation” (http://www.womansday.com/life/real-women/g1703/hunger-in-america/?slide=1). In 2015, we received 46,000 lbs. of in-kind food donations, served over 18,000 meals and generated close to 10,000 volunteer hours. In 2016, we hope to expand our services to children and families in our local communities who are not yet visible to us. We know they are out there, we are here to help. We serve an entire county as the sole provider for Jane's Pantry, an emergency food provision program administered by our Pinellas County Schools social services team and The Homeless Education Advocacy Team (HEAT) providing emergency meals. We provide 350 Mouse Nibbles food sacks each Friday to identified children in need, ending weekend hunger. The identity and dignity of each student is protected.

Organization Type

  • nonprofit/NGO/citizen sector

Annual Budget

  • $100k - $250k

Financial Sustainability Plan: What is your solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?

We will continue to find sustainable ways for our mission to grow through continued collaboration with corporations, businesses and nonprofits in our community. Grants, community generosity, food drives, events, fundraisers, business employee donations and volunteerism allow us to meet the immediate needs of our program. However, we believe our growth will be in the hands of our young entrepreneurs as they engage their community and schools.

Unique Value Proposition: How else is this problem being addressed? Are there other organizations working in the same field, and how does your project differ from these other approaches?

There are 8,000 children in our county living with food instabilities and this number is likely to rise based on the number of families living below the poverty line. We meet the needs of as many of these children as possible; however, we know we are not reaching all of them. We rely on our strong relationships with our county school board liaisons and social services who keep us informed of the need. We are not aware of other food pantries that are run by children leaders who also have the dreams and desire to expand the pantry into their local school system.

Reflect on the Field and its Future: Stepping outside of your project, what do you see as the most important or promising shifts that can advance children’s wellbeing?

More than half the world now lives in towns and cities, which is the largest wave of urban growth in history. This unprecedented growth poses perhaps the single greatest challenge to our children, schools and communities. But greater than this statistic is the growing movement from our youth who want to step forward and proactively care for their communities. If we teach our youth to become intentional neighbors making a significant contribution and we provide leadership opportunities for them to get involved at an early age; they will be encouraged to help solve their communities problems.

Source: How did you hear about the Children’s Wellbeing Challenge? (the answer will not be public)

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Attachments (3)

POSTER 1_edited-3.jpg

The Kind Mouse Community Raising Awareness Sample of Events

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The Kind Mouse Mice in Training and Mice Interns Raising Awareness for our Mouse Nibbles and Jane's Pantry Programs

MIT 2016 PHOTOS (9).JPG

Example of The Kind Mouse Food Drive

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Photo of Gina Wilkins
Team

Brittany Thank you for your kind comment. We believe in the abilities of our volunteer children who run the food pantry, which helps them believe in themselves. When youth are given leadership opportunities at a young age, they expect more of themselves and others and take pride in the fact that they can have a positive impact on those less fortunate -- especially in their own community. We hope to see this trend go beyond our county and state to the national level one day.

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