pains By Kerry Firth
Project’s meals help food insecure
children get through the weekend
76: SPACE COAST LIVING | SPACECOASTLIVING.COM
“Because I think more like a business
person than an altruistic person, I developed
a sophisticated business plan
that consisted of just nine words. See a
hungry kid. Buy food. Feed the kid.”
The simplicity of the plan is what
makes it so workable. Barnes ran the
plan by some of his poker buddies and
they immediately jumped on board.
They started identifying food insecure
students at just one school, Riviera
Elementary School in Palm Bay, and
fed 27 children. Being the eternal
optimist, Barnes knew if he could feed
100 kids it would be remarkable. He scheduled lunch with David
Cohen, the vice president of Morgan Stanley, and told him what
he was doing.
“At the end of our conversation he asked what we needed and I
told him it costs about $150 per kid per year so if we were going
to feed 100 we needed $15,000, “ Barnes recalled. “Cohen wrote a
check on the spot and that kick started the whole charity.
“Honestly this charity is guided by angels every step of the way,”
Barnes explained. “One day I had lunch with Bruce Nelson Jr. of
Cocoa Hyundai and I told him we had outgrown the place where
we were packaging lunches and that I was having difficulty finding
a warehouse to rent. He offered us space on the property of Cocoa
Hyundai and we haven’t paid a penny in rent for six years.
“Then as we outgrew that space, the Shah family, who owns
Southeast Petro, donated 100 percent of the equity of a building
in the heart of Cocoa Village estimated to be about $500,000
to house The Children’s Hunger Project Headquarters on a
Sometimes it takes just one person with an idea and
a few poker buddies to start something big. So big
that it evolves into The Children’s Hunger Project,
a 501c3 charity that feeds nearly 3,000 children
weekly, in 47 elementary schools, in an effort to eliminate
the growing problem of weekend childhood hunger.
Back in 2008, Bob Barnes was working in his office with
the TV on as background noise when he heard the words
hunger and children on a CNN show where Nancy Grace
was interviewing Stan Curtis, founder of a Louisville,
Kentucky, charity called Blessings in a Backpack. In the
interview they revealed that 1 out of 5 children are food
insecure especially over the weekends when they are not
getting free school lunches.
“I did not know that kids were going hungry,” Barnes said.
“I thought about it and thought this is something I could
do to make a difference in Brevard County. I called Mr.
Curtis who just happened to be giving a speech in West
Palm Beach the following week and met him for dinner.
By the time I started the drive home I knew I was going to
start a local charity.
Students from Edgewood Junior/Senior High School help pack weekend meals so
food insecure children won’t come to school hungry on Mondays.
Bob Barnes is the founder of
the Children’s Hunger Project.
Food packs are filled with enough nonperishable, nutritional items to last
the elementary school students through the weekend. >>