Meals distributed to PreK kids, but expansion is needed

Chef Chip Panico of AAA Catering is distributing much-needed meals for PreK children at The Children’s Place and Over the Rainbow Pre-School, but wants to serve more.

Chef Chip Panico and Shana Harper, director of The Children’s Place Preschools at 4416 Longshore Ave., are distributing meals for children aged 6 months to PreK. LOGAN KRUM/TIMES PHOTO

Chef Chip Panico’s mission is keeping PreK kids fed and nourished. The School District of Philadelphia is providing free meals to students during the school year and the shutdown – but what about families with children aged 6 months to Pre-K?

Thanks to funding secured by It Takes a Village to Feed One Child, a nonprofit that provides meals to children, Panico is able to distribute meals to those young ones in need. On Mondays and Wednesdays at 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., families will be able to pick up meals from sites like The Children’s Place Preschools Longshore and others to keep their child nourished.

Last week, about 120 kids received three meals each during the two days the tent was set up at Children’s Place. Panico is distributing meals at four locations throughout the city, including Over the Rainbow Preschool at 4301 Tyson Ave., which will also be distributing meals to families of the center on a similar schedule.

It’s a good start, but Panico wants to expand. Under the Child and Adult Care Food Program, he’s contracted to distribute meals only at sites he’s already contracted to work at, and only to children who are signed up to use that center.

“Kids that aren’t in these centers that live in his neighborhood – how are they getting fed?” Panico said.

He also pointed out that parents who traveled to the sites from elsewhere in the city may have difficulties traveling to the site.

The locations are a collaboration between AAA Catering, where Panico works, and It Takes a Village to Feed One Child. During these unprecedented times programs like CACFP are navigating uncharted waters, and Panico is seeking more funding and contracts to help feed more children.

The meal packages. LOGAN KRUM/TIMES PHOTO

“It only costs me $8 a day to feed a kid. For $40, I can feed a kid all week,” Panico said.

AAA Catering is based in Lansdale, where Panico goes by Chef Chipper. He provides meals to 26 sites in Philadelphia and surrounding areas.

Shana Harper, director at The Children’s Place Preschools’ location at 4416 Longshore Ave., said the meals are critically important to some of the families of the center.

“We’re getting so many texts and emails about how much this is helping them right now,” she said. When they sent an alert about the distribution out, families in the neighborhood were at the site within minutes, she said.