The Friendly Center Offers Food Reimbursement Program to Local Day Cares

community -- Friendly Center_Chef VA father of five, Vanard “Chef V” Shelton certainly knows what children do – and do not – like to eat.

So when it came to providing samples of some kid-friendly recipes at The Friendly Center in north Toledo, his “grab-and-go bowl” was first on the list. The simple yet nutritious dish features shredded chicken over instant mashed potatoes, with the less popular ingredient, corn, tucked within the mound.

“They don’t like vegetables,” Shelton said. “I have to hide it like I did with this.”

Shelton and other staff at The Friendly Center recently held an event for local home child care providers and those interested in starting a day care business showcasing the center’s The Menu program. The Menu provides federally funded reimbursements to child care providers who serve healthy food to the children in their care, as well as technical support, recipes, food demonstrations, and other services.

Karen Jobe, a local licensed child care provider who is training The Menu participants, said receiving a monthly tax-free reimbursement from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Child and Adult Care Food Program helps her home business offset meal costs. She also can afford more name-brand products instead of generic for the children in her care because of the reimbursements, she said.

“I know that my food check is coming, and so I can go to the grocery store and feed my children,” Jobe said.

Through the federal program, more than 3.3 million children and 120,000 adults receive nutritious meals and snacks. The Friendly Center, however, only sponsors reimbursements for child care providers.

Come to the Table 

The Friendly Center is a local partner in ProMedica’s collaborative Come to the Table initiative to end hunger and address it as a health issue. The north Toledo neighborhood community center provides emergency food, tutoring services and other activities to help residents improve their health and lifestyle.

Combatting hunger and making sure local children receive healthy, nutritious meals are key for The Friendly Center, said Amelia Gibbon, executive director. The Friendly Center is in the midst of a food desert, a federal designation for low-income areas without nearby grocery stores carrying affordable fresh produce and other healthy food.

Shelton’s recipe for the grab-and-go bowl would cost a child care provider less than $10 for 20 servings of the chicken, mashed potato and corn dish, Gibbon said.

“The Friendly Center is committed to nutrition for our families and our babies,” she said.

Said Debrah Harleston, office manager at The Friendly Center: “A lot of people don’t know you can eat healthy without spending a lot of money.”

Child Care Businesses

Jobe, who also offers prospective home child care providers advice on getting their businesses licensed or approved, said she will evaluate The Menu recipients. Each will need to submit menus, and their homes will be visited three to four times a year, she said.

The Menu also provides participating child care providers with free business development workshops and other resources so they can grow, Gibbon said.

For more information about The Friendly Center, please visit