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Kids Café helps craft meaningful change for at-risk children

Communities that KARE celebrates a Twin Cities culinary icon who spent decades sharpening the skills of local children who need a helping hand.

ST. LOUIS PARK, Minn. — Sue Zelickson turns 88 next month with accolades upon accolades.

She received a James Beard Award and co-founded the Charlie Awards, but what could be one of her greatest legacies is the Kids Café.

"Just cooking and kids sort of go together," said Zelickson. "The program not only takes care of the nutrition inside them but also their whole look on life."

The Cargill Kids Café at Perspectives Family Center in St. Louis Park is a nonprofit serving homeless and at-risk youth and families. "They're learning manners, which is really important, and how to eat healthy," explained Zelickson. 

The Cargill Kids Café feeds up to 70 kids lunch and dinner five nights a week during the school year, and the summer program serves breakfast and lunch. The children are also learning how to cook.

The slicing, dicing, measuring, and reading can lead to healthier decisions. "It can be mental, or financial, or whatever the case may be," said Donyelle Williams, the kitchen manager. She used to be a part of the program, first arriving at Perspectives when she was 7 years old.

"This place has changed me twice, but Sue, you really saved my life. Seriously," Williams explained. "[She is] the coolest lady with the coolest glasses. And just to see her again after all these years, you know, being an adult growing up, it's she's like a mom, grandmom. She is in the family, just as well as me and my brother, and I'm just so appreciative for everything that's she's done." 

The café is still growing. There's a capital campaign to expand the kitchen and involve more of the community.

While change is needed, what stays the same is Sue's love and passion.

"There's always a need for food. And food and family and togetherness are really important," said Zelickson.

The Kids Café is looking for volunteers, aged 16-years-old and up.

And, if you want to learn more about Sue, she's featured in the recent issue of Minnesota Monthly Magazine.

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