NIA Community Initiative launches kids café backpack program

NIA Community Initiative Executive Director Nicole Gray and East Natchitoches Elementary Principal Chrystal Davis display the backpacks. NIA means “purpose” in Swahili, but is also an acronym for Natchitoches In Action.

NIA Community Initiative, a 501 (c)(3) non profit, launched its Kids Café Backpack Program last month. The program provides an after-school snack and backpacks filled with meals and snacks to children enrolled in after school programs at Weaver and East Natchitoches Elementary schools. Backpacks are filled and distributed every Thursday for children to take home, helping them eat healthy and fill the gap so children do not go hungry on the weekends.

This article published in the Feb. 19, 2022, print edition
From left are Kyle Scott, Nicole Gray and Alaysia Smith at Weaver Elementary. Scott and Smith are Program Coordinators for NIA Community Initiative and Gray is Executive Director.

“We are so proud to serve the community through this program and extremely grateful for the grant award from the Louisiana Department of Revenue, which helped fund us,” said Executive Director Nicole Gray. A Feed America study found that 21% of residents in Natchitoches Parish (approximately 7,600 residents) are food insecure. This program serves as a way to improve food accessibility for more than 120 students in the program.
NIA Community Initiative was founded in 2021 to address the needs of Natchitoches youth and close the opportunity gap that many youths in rural and impoverished communities face. The organization has three program objectives: mentoring/academic assistance, juvenile justice alternatives and child nutrition.