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Children's lunchbox: feeding more kids.

The Children's Lunchbox has operated under the radar for years, but now a growing number of families make use of the free meals provided to hungry kids in Anchorage and, more recently, the Mat-Su.

Children's Lunchbox will deliver about 200,000 meals this year through early-morning breakfast, lunch and after-school meals plus weekend meals handed off to school children on Friday afternoons. The nonprofit recently partnered with the Boys & Girls Club in Wasilla to offer meals in the Valley as well.

Program managers are hoping to increase the program's visibility in the fundraising community too.

Beans Care is the program's parent organization. Operated since 1988, Children's Lunchbox allowed Beans to expand its meal-serving programs from adults to children. But where Beans does fundraising through its dynamic development director, Ken Miller, Children's Lunchbox is just now starting to focus on expanding its public profile.

"It's been a small program for a long time ... (but) we've grown 170 percent in the last two years," says director Lynette Ortolano. "We're just kind of starting to become more significant in the community and more recognized."

Children's Lunchbox operates on a $500,000 annual budget today, Ortolano says. That number was $200,000 just two years ago. More than half of the program's funding--about 65 percent--comes from U.S. Department of Agriculture child nutrition programs. Need is only expected to increase, so program coordinators hope to boost fundraising efforts to match.

As its first fundraising event, the program launched Nourish Their Dreams last year and is planning a second one at Bridge Seafood restaurant in March. The event features local chefs creating tasting menus for attendees. The first event made about $22,000, Ortolano says.

Children's Lunchbox also holds the "Sack It to You" lunch fundraiser where businesses buy lunches from Subway or other vendors, with donated ingredients. Some community members take it on themselves to organize fundraisers for individual programs.

Ortolano says she's ready to take the program to the next level. "We could still use that push--that branding excellence--that really launches us."
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Author:Hollander, Zaz
Publication:Alaska Business Monthly
Date:Dec 1, 2012
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