At just 7 years old, Celia Hays Elementary School first grade student Kaden Newton already has his own charity organization: Mac & Cheese and Pancakes.
The organization’s goal is to provide kid-friendly and kid-approved food to food pantries. All benefits go to Rockwall County Helping Hands.
Newton’s mother Diana said his giving heart started at a very young age.
“When he was 4 years old, he came to me and said he wants to do something to give food to hungry children,” she said.
So, they visited their local food bank and made a donation. Newton said she thought they were done, but Kaden had other plans in mind. He asked to go back several times and eventually he got to where he asked to go inside the pantry and he saw some food that he did not really care for and was not kid-based food.
After making the connection that the kids in the waiting room were there to get food, Newton said Kaden began to question what kind of food the children have to eat which led to his organization.
“He asked ‘What do those kids have to eat?’” Newton said. “Do they have to eat the stuffing mix or the grown up oatmeal? Where’s the kid food? So, that’s how it really came to life.”
In November 2016, Kaden decided a name for his organization. The name Mac & Cheese and Pancakes was inspired by his two favorite foods.
With a name in place, the next step was to meet with Rockwall County Helping Hands. He sat in a meeting with them and discussed which items to pursue.
“He’s 7, but carries business cards that he designed himself,” Newton said. “He carries a binder and tries to be as professional as possible. At the meetings, I try to let him do most of the talking.”
Newton said they chose Rockwall County Helping Hands because that is the first pantry Kaden visited.
After months of behind the scene work, Kaden officially launched Mac & Cheese and Pancakes on Feb. 2 at 9 p.m. Newton promoted the organization on her Facebook page and attached a link to an Amazon wish list. Anyone who has Amazon Prime can order the food on the list and have it sent to her house. Newton said the process takes less than 30 seconds.
In just four days, there were already more than 2,500 items donated. Newton said she has been blown away by the support.
“His goal was 1,000 items,” Newton said. “I thought that was too much. I thought maybe 100 was appropriate.”
Kaden’s new goal is 5,000 items, but he said he would love to raise more than that.
Newton said they are looking for food that is associated with one’s childhood such as peanut butter and jelly and macaroni and cheese.
“For example, Helping Hands has tons of soup,” Newton said. “But it might be beef barley or vegetable soup. He specifically requested chicken noodle soup. Instead of Wheaties or Fruit & Fiber, he’s asking for Rice Krispies, Chex, Cinnamon Toast Crunch — cereal that will appeal to children instead of just adults.”
Newton said most of the items they are requesting were items Helping Hands had already requested.
But she said Kaden really wanted to focus on making sure those little kids in the waiting rooms are excited about what they’re getting.
In addition to his online food drive, Kaden is working on food drives at his school, his church, his martial arts school, the Rockwall School of Music and his piano school. Celia Hays will run a school-wide Mac & Cheese and Pancakes food drive in April. Kaden’s church, First United Methodist Church of Rockwall, will run his food drive from March 1 through Easter.
Newton said they are trying to spread out the drives so Helping Hands won’t get so much food at once.
She said it is up to Kaden how long Mac & Cheese and Pancakes stays open, but does not predict it will be a short-term run.
“We’re only four days in so it’s really too soon to say,” Newton said. “But some of his food drives that he has planned are scheduled for even April and May of this year. So this is going to be something that goes on for a while.”
Newton said she is humbled to have a child who is thinking of other kids.
“He’s a blessing to me, my husband, and all these kids he’s thinking about,” Newton said. “To have that at such a young age is a gift. I’d love to say he learned that from us, but it’s obviously a gift that he was given to have a servant’s heart.”
Jasmine C. Johnson can be reached at email@example.com.