The notion of a childcare facility proposing a complimentary food program is a foreign concept offering a unique service to a specific community in need. The complimentary nutritious food program proposed by the Children’s Care Academy of Pinellas will fulfill a huge need in the community for all parents or caregivers undergoing cancer treatment regardless of family structure or income. According to the 2000 census data, the incidence rate for newly diagnosed cancer cases in Pinellas County, Florida equal 109.2 per every 100,000 out of a total of 922,261 residents between the years 2008 and 2011. These statistics include all cancer sites, race and ethnicity for both sexes under the age of fifty (“National Cancer Institute,” 2015). Many of these newly diagnosed cancer cases will undergo cancer treatment and would benefit substantially from the food service program proposed by the Children’s Care Academy of Pinellas.
Treatment schedules can be rigorous, time consuming and unsettling resulting in the reliance on outside resources. Pinellas County is home to a large population of single-working parents struggling to make ends meet. Single families generally face greater challenges in everyday life with less income and family support. Demanding cancer treatment schedules can further complicate the single-family structure resulting in an even greater need for outside assistance. The following narrative was relayed by a current pro-bono staff member of the Children’s Care Academy. Talking with Thomas (personal communication, May 15, 2015)…
“I was a single-parent raising a daughter on my own without the help of family and friends. When my daughter was 18 months old I went back to school to further my education. Upon graduation I became gainfully employed in my new career, but still needed to work two jobs to make ends meet. I was diagnosed with stage III breast cancer the year my daughter turned four. I was devastated physically, emotionally and financially. After my double mastecotmy I started a rigorous treatment plan with radiation and chemotherapy. Treatment was grueling and greatly diminished my ability to properly care for my daughter. I was struggling to find childcare during my treatment sessions and was physically inept to prepare a nourishing meal for my daughter. Today, I am a six-year cancer survivor. I currently donate my counseling services to the Children’s Care Academy of Pinellas to help children whose parents are undergoing cancer treatment. I applaud their heart for community outreach and will continue to strive in helping the program expand its services to help change lives.”
Recently, the Children’s Care Academy staff became increasingly aware that children were arriving at the academy hungry, regardless of the time they were brought to our care. We conducted a simple impromptu survey with the children and their parent or caregiver and found that the parent or caregiver was not always physically able to prepare a proper meal due to the ill effects of the cancer treatment. This realization led to the notion of launching the Quick Bites Café to help further our service and dedication to the community.
Children with parents or caregivers undergoing cancer treatment residing in the central west portion of Pinellas County, Florida have the unique opportunity of being served by the Children’s Care Academy of Pinellas through complimentary childcare including academic tutoring and counseling services. Expanding the academy’s childcare program to include complimentary nutritious meals will not only encourage proper nutrition for children but help alleviate some of the stress for parents or caregivers that often accompanies the demands of treatment.
Children can be in the care of the academy for several hours a day, often during breakfast, lunch and or dinner times, requiring the need for children to receive a nutritious meal. Some parents may not have the time, energy or financial means to provide a nourishing meal for their children while undergoing treatment resulting in a hungry child. The academy feels the addition of a food program will help fill this void for as long as the parent or caregiver is undergoing treatment.
Traditional daycare facilities are designed to accommodate working parents requiring payment for services on a continual basis regardless of how often the children attend. Daycare facilities are also very expensive and do not provide nutritious food programs on a complimentary basis. The Children’s Care Academy is fashioned to care for children coinciding with treatment schedules on a complimentary basis.
Situated to care for children, expanding the Children’s Care Academy’s outreach to include a food program will fulfill the two-fold need through the provisions the Quick Bite Café will offer. Children attending the academy will be guaranteed at least one nutritious meal a day while affording a bit of respite for the parent or caregiver to encourage enhanced health, happiness and healing. Success of the Quite Bites Café will help pave the way for additional Children’s Care Academies providing a wider opportunity to serve those in need.