Local Baker Is Passionate About Ending Child Hunger

Written by Rebecca Fischer

 Photo by Adrienne Maples

Photo by Adrienne Maples

We all know the nagging pain of hunger — some of us may even know the feeling of starvation. How hard it is to concentrate. The lightheadedness and weakness of the body. The difficulty falling asleep. The lack of sleep that exacerbates our unease and distractedness.

But how many of us truly have been hungry, day in and day out?

Recent studies show people right here in Johnson County face hunger every day. Although government-funded programs are in place to help feed our communities (like SNAP, formerly called food stamps), talk to anyone close to the issue and they’ll tell you the money doesn’t go far enough.

A concern for those suffering from hunger, especially kids, inspired local caterer Gina Reardon to start doing something about it. In 2014, when scrolling through Facebook, she saw a post by a friend in L.A. who was holding a bake sale to raise funds to support Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign. She researched the cause and knew she wanted to get involved.

“Their website is full of statistics about our country’s food insecurities that impact children, and it’s staggering,” Reardon says. 

Some of those statistics? 

• 13 million children face food insecurity in the U.S., or one in six.
• For the first time in history, over half of public school students are from low-income families.
• Three out of four public school teachers say that students regularly come to school hungry, with 81% saying it happens every week. 

Studies show that kids who are hungry have a harder time learning than their peers, are sick more often, and struggle to keep up in class.

When Reardon learned that the average bake sale for No Kid Hungry raised $1,000, she knew she could reach that goal. In her first year, she raised $7,000, but she wanted to do more. 

To date, Reardon’s Kansas City team has raised over $230,000 for No Kid Hungry and has been recognized as the No. 1 bake sale and independent fundraising team in the country. It was the top spot not only for individual organizers but also for corporate teams.

Part of the fundraising success came through her idea to add a second event to the bake sale: The Country Brunch. Nancy Smith, wife of Chef Michael Smith and general manager of Michael Smith Restaurant, came on as co-chair in 2016, followed in 2017 by Jenny Vergara, contributing editor for Feast Magazine Midwest, food critic and founder of The Test Kitchen. Some of the hottest chefs in KC have participated in the brunch, and local bartenders have battled it out to create the best bloody Mary.  

“The bake sale is like a community fair with a variety of delicious sweet and savory treats, where there is something for everyone,” Reardon says. “It’s warm and friendly. The positive vibe is contagious. We even serve our own Roasterie signature blend coffee.”

The bake sale rose to celebrity status, too — even Mayor Sly James participated, along with some of the best bakers and culinary pros in the area. And of the 60 culinary professional and community bakers, a handful were kids themselves, part of the “Next Generation” division of bakers.

This year, thanks to a partnership with the American Society of Baking, the Bake Sale for No Kid Hungry will be held in two locations simultaneously: Brookside and Prairiefire in Overland Park.

Besides the bake sale this month and brunch in October, anyone can get involved anytime by holding their own bake sale. Connect with Reardon at kcteam4nokidhungry.com to learn more.

2 Ways to Support No Kid Hungry 

Sept. 15
KC Culinary Community Bake Sale

This event features dozens of our community’s culinary best, including specialty bakers, local celebs, kids, and more.
Brookside
8 a.m.–3 p.m.
6336 Brookside Plaza, KCMO
Pinstripes at Prairiefire
9 a.m.–3 p.m.
13500 Nall, OPKS

Oct. 7
Country Brunch

Come for brunch, stay for the party! Local chefs and bartenders will be providing delicious food and beverages. Enjoy gourmet doughnuts and hard cider, and bid on exciting auction items, all while you enjoy tunes from Big Time Grain Co. Buy tickets at kcteam4nokidhungry.com.

28 Event Space
Noon–3 p.m.
1300 W. 28th St., KCMO

Suzanne Steiner