MetroParks needs help to finish new kitchen used to feed Dayton youth

Five Rivers MetroParks Foundation needs the community’s help raising the last $77,000 to provide a new kitchen that will serve West Dayton’s youth.

Adventure Central, located at Wesleyan MetroPark, is a free youth development program within the MetroParks system that runs after school programming and a summer camp with a focus on science, nature, academic performance and healthy lifestyles. A $493,664 fund raising effort is underway for a major renovation of its kitchen.

The Adventure Central Kitchen was never designed to serve as many kids as it has been serving for years, said Nate Arnett, director of Adventure Central. Passionate volunteers and staff have been “playing Jenga” in the kitchen to make the operation possible.

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AC serves 95 students at its after-school program during the year and 140 campers during the summer months. With 600 meals served per week, the wear and tear on AC’s existing kitchen is significant, according to a release. The current facility was designed for snacks and food demonstrations. Full meal prep means AC has a need for more space, storage, updated kitchen amenities and more.

“For the youth we serve, the kitchen isn’t just a place to prepare fuel that feeds the body,” Arnett said. “The kids use their minds in our kitchen — they grow skills, learn about healthy eating habits, and really understand how important access to fresh food is for the community.”

AC will celebrate its 20th anniversary in 2020. More than a place for a hot meal and place to go after school, AC has made a lasting impact for some Dayton youth.

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“Everybody says it, but the youth are the future and I feel like the youth that we have here really have potential, though sometimes they don’t see it for themselves yet.” said Don’Yale Walker, AC alumna and group leader. “I know I’m getting a little old, but I don’t want to go anywhere, I just want to stay here and help them be the best they can be. AC has had a very long lasting impact on my life. Every time I go somewhere, AC is somehow one of my topics of conversation.”

“Kids across the country are presented with challenges when it comes to access to fresh food and being empowered to make healthy choices—children who live in west Dayton are no exception,” said Arnett.

According to Dayton & Montgomery County Public Health, 35.5% of people located in west Dayton zip codes live in poverty. Of the 68,780 individuals living in west Dayton, 10,490 receive SNAP benefits. Purchasing fresh food is a challenge for west Dayton residents, as that area is considered a food desert, an area where it’s difficult to find affordable or high-quality fresh food.

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Menus and meals are intentionally planned to include more fruits and vegetables. As a part of the AC curriculum, kids help grow and prepare the produce used to supplement their meals.

“During the school year, Adventure Central serves as that wonderful place where kids can go, get homework done, have fun activities that are nature related, so for the Dayton community it’s one of those hidden gems. Angela Collie, program coordinator for Adventure Central.

How to donate

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