North Philly man's mission to feed kids hits milestone despite COVID-19 restrictions

Cherri Gregg
May 27, 2020 - 1:34 pm
Food to be delivered by Kidz Meals on Wheels 215

Kidz Meals on Wheels 215

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — A Nicetown man who began prepping meals in his kitchen for kids in need has expanded his operation during the pandemic. The newly established nonprofit has delivered more than 10,000 free meals in just a few weeks.

“Just seeing their faces light up when we go to their houses — it’s just very gratifying,” says Ariq Barrett, founder of  Kidz Meals on Wheels 215

At one time, the chef and former youth camp counselor would drop off meals at after-school programs and recreation centers. When the pandemic hit, his mission shifted after learning there are hundreds of families with kids who need help.

Ariq Barrett and his restaurant
Ariq Barrett
“We found out that there were kids that couldn’t get to the food lines,” he says, “or their parents couldn’t get to the schools at the times they were giving out free lunches because they were at work.”

Barrett began in his kitchen by packing up and delivering 50-60 lunches a couple times a week thanks to a small cadre of community supporters. He sold dinners to pay for the effort. Then, Attic Brewery in Germantown joined in, donating space and providing support. Thanks to volunteers, their meal preparation and delivery ramped up to between 500 to 600 lunches, with snacks, delivered two to three times a week.

“We’ve been rocking out with just eight to 10 volunteers, but we’ve been getting these numbers out,” he said, noting that social distancing means only a few people can safely help with packaging the food.

Barrett says they deliver to ZIP codes in South Philadelphia, North Philadelphia, Upper Darby and other areas on the outskirts of the city. Barrett led the effort until he became ill and had to have part of his foot amputated.

As he recovers, he says, his heart is filled with gratitude.

“Because I see other people excited about something that I started in my house,” he said.