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Co-founders, Feed the Kids

They Decided to Do Something … and Not Just Write a Check

Dr. Fred and Mary Kay Kadushin

It all started with a story on National Public Radio in 2017, one with some alarming statistics about how many children in this country go to bed hungry — some 6 million of them, according to estimates at that time.

Dr. Fred and Mary Kay Kadushin were in different places when the NPR story aired, but they both had their radios on. And they were both surprised and alarmed by what they heard — enough to want to try to do something about it.

“Both of us were just so blown away by what we heard,” said Mary Kay, a retired graphic artist. “When you think about childhood nutrition, and the lack thereof … you think of other countries, but it’s right here in the United States; it’s right under your nose.”

Fred, a semi-retired neuropsychologist who specializes in toxic disorders, agreed. “We decided we needed to do something, and that we needed to do more than just a write a check.”

They talked at length about possible courses of action and eventually settled on creating a new nonprofit venture that would be called Feed the Kids, a name that says it all. And they would eventually settle on a golf tournament (something they had some experience with from their years helping to fundraise for the Boy Scouts) and accompanying online auction as the way to carry out a simple yet vitally important mission — to help existing local programs that have undertaken initiatives to combat childhood food insecurity.

Specifically, they now support Square One, the Springfield-based early-education and family-support provider that offers breakfast, lunch, and snacks to its preschoolers; Pioneer Valley Power Packs, an all-volunteer program that provides school-aged children with non-perishable food each weekend in Easthampton and Northampton; the HPS (Holyoke Public Schools) Weekend Backpack program; and No Kid Hungry, a national organization that battles food insecurity.

“Both of us were just so blown away by what we heard. When you think about childhood nutrition, and the lack thereof … you think of other countries, but it’s right here in the United States; it’s right under your nose.”

Since the first players teed it up in 2018, the program has raised more than $350,000 to fight childhood food insecurity, and along the way it has garnered the support of several area businesses, including PeoplesBank, Westfield Bank, the accounting firm Meyers Brothers Kalicka, the law firm Shatz Schwartz and Fentin, Freedom Credit Union, Monson Savings Bank, Elm Electric, and many others.

We talked with the Kadushins about their work, but we also talked with those at the agencies they support. They describe a couple that is modest, caring, generous, and committed to doing what they can to help others in this region. In other words, Difference Makers.

Dr. Fred Kadushin gets to know some of the young students at Square One in Springfield

Dr. Fred Kadushin gets to know some of the young students at Square One in Springfield, one of the nonprofits supported by Feed the Kids.

“Fred and Mary Kay are selfless in their efforts,” said Mary Bianca, a board member with Pioneer Valley Power Packs, who nominated the Kadushins for the Difference Makers award. “They work tirelessly, and their help and dedication have, and continue to make, a huge difference in the lives of thousands of children in our community.”

Kris Allard, vice president of Development and Communication at Square One, who also nominated them, agreed.

“If there’s a poster recipient for the Difference Makers award, it would be Fred and Mary Kay,” she told BusinessWest. “They are the kindest, most generous family … and there’s a pureness to what they do. They’re just individuals doing this work; there’s no expectation for recognition. They’re just good people.”


Impact Statements

As she talked about the Kadushins, Allard started not with Feed the Kids and what it does for Square One, but with a different initiative at the agency — one that collects winter coats for children in need.

“They would donate beautiful coats to the program, and I would always get a note from them that said, ‘make sure they check the pockets,’” she said. “There was always a toy zipped into the pocket — a little Matchbox car or any other kind of small toy that would fit in there — and Fred would always say, ‘have the kids check the pockets; there’s a little something extra there.’”

Doing something extra has been the MO for the Kadushins, she went on, adding that, during COVID, when coat drop-offs were not possible, the couple still wanted to donate. Allard, who lives in Wilbraham, arranged to go to the Kadushins’ home on Lake Paradise in Monson and pick up some coats, and while there, Fred initiated a conversation about what else Square One did.

“If there’s a poster recipient for the Difference Makers award, it would be Fred and Mary Kay. They are the kindest, most generous family … and there’s a pureness to what they do. They’re just individuals doing this work; there’s no expectation for recognition. They’re just good people.”

Upon being told the agency provided breakfast and lunch for children, but that this was ‘deficit operation,’ because funds from the state didn’t fully cover the costs, Fred told her about the golf tournament that he and Mary Kay had started a few years earlier.

So began a partnership that embodies the mission of both agencies, and one that certainly helps explain why the Kadushins are being honored as Difference Makers.

For a more in-depth explanation, we need to go back to that report on NPR.

The Kadushins, as noted, came away determined to help, and not by writing a check. They did considerable research on how best to address the larger problem and started a golf tournament to support No Kid Hungry. Soon, though, they wanted to expand their reach and directly support local organizations with programs to feed children.

There are many of them because the need is great, said Mary Kay, adding that they eventually created partnerships with Square One, Pioneer Valley Power Packs (PVPP), and the HPS Weekend Backpack program, which provides 250 to 500 Holyoke children with a backpack of nutritious food to tide them over until they return to school on Monday.

But some of these programs, and especially No Kid Hungry, provide more than food, said Fred, adding that education is also critically important.

“They have programs that educate parents about making smart food choices because sometimes, kids are just getting the wrong foods,” he explained. “It’s not just that they’re not getting enough; they’re getting the wrong kinds.”

And the need is only growing within the region, said both the Kadushins and those operating the nonprofits they support.

The Feed the Kids golf tournament

The Feed the Kids golf tournament has drawn the support of dozens of local businesses and become a summer tradition in Western Mass.

Indeed, Bianca said Pioneer Valley Power Packs saw a 65% increase in need in 2023, a surge she attributes to inflation, rising rents, an overall softening of the economy that saw more people out of work, and an end to some COVID-related relief programs.

There is a waiting list for students to receive the power packs, which consist of two breakfasts, two lunches, and some snacks, she said, adding that, thanks to the donation from the Feed the Kids tournament and auction, the agency was able to take some young people off that waiting list.

“They’re our largest supporter,” she said. “If not for them, we wouldn’t have a program.”


Investment Plan

The golf tournament created to support PVPP and other organizations fighting childhood food insecurity, staged annually at Springfield Country Club, has become a labor of love for the Kadushins and a small army of volunteers that lend support and handle assignments from securing items for the auction to working at the course on tournament day.

Planning for next year’s tournament begins almost immediately after the current year’s edition ends, said Fred, adding that the goal is to keep overhead as low as possible (in this case, almost zero) to funnel as much of the money raised to nonprofits as possible.

The event has grown over the years, at least in terms of the auction and the number of supporting corporate sponsors. (As veteran golf-tournament organizers, they understand the importance of limiting the number of golfers on the course, thus helping to ensure that a good time is had and foursomes come back the next year.)

And its importance has grown as well, said the Kadushins, agreeing with Bianca that, regrettably, the need has only increased in the years since that NPR report.

They view their efforts as an investment in young people and an investment in the future of this region, and the country.

“The payoffs are so high,” Fred said. “Proper nutrition affects physical, cognitive, and emotional development. If you think about it, nutrition affects everything. If you improve concentration, you can improve school performance, and when kids eat properly, they’re more likely to graduate, and the downstream implications of that are huge in terms of improving lives and ensuring that people become productive members of society.

“You decrease things like obesity and improve immunity,” he went on. “So downstream, you’re improving kids’ health, so there will be less drag on the healthcare system.”

Mary Kay agreed. “Our passion is with kids because it’s hard to imagine a child going to bed hungry, and that’s generally through no fault of their own,” she said. “Our heart goes out to that.”

While they’re proud of what they do, the Kadushins, as might be expected given the testimonials above, say the real work being done to combat food insecurity among young people is at the nonprofits addressing the problem and by those on the front lines, many of them volunteers.

“These volunteers are amazing; they pack the food, they get it distributed, and they identify who needs the food,” Mary Kay said, adding that she, Fred, and other members of the golf-tournament team will be joining those in Holyoke to stuff backpacks later this month. “It’s pretty amazing, these people who actually do this work.”

Equally amazing is the devotion that Fred and Mary Kay bring to the efforts to help these agencies and volunteers carry out their missions.

Their work is done mostly behind the scenes, organizing the golf outing, signing up sponsors, and attending to the smallest of details. Their stated goal is to press on, grow their venture, hopefully add a title sponsor, and, ultimately, help local agencies help more people in need.

What else would you expect from a couple that puts small surprises in the pockets of winter coats earmarked for children in need? What else would you expect from a couple that didn’t just listen to a news story on childhood hunger, but committed themselves to doing something about those alarming statistics?

What else would you expect from two genuine Difference Makers?

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — Feed the Kids, a local nonprofit focused on fighting childhood hunger, raised a total of $75,000 through its sixth annual golf tournament and online auction. The amount raised at this year’s event, held on Aug. 7 at Springfield Country Club, brings the six-year total to more than $370,000. Proceeds benefit local organizations that work to ensure children do not go hungry, including Square One, the Holyoke School Backpack Program, Pioneer Valley Powerpacks, and No Kid Hungry.

“We had a little rain in the morning, but everyone enjoyed a wonderful day, and we raised a record amount of money,” said Dr. Frederick Kadushin, co-chair of Feed the Kids. “For some added excitement, we even had our first hole-in-one winner: Scott Trevethan scored an ace on the ninth hole.”

The more than 200 items in the online auction were donated primarily by local businesses and individuals. They included vacation packages, restaurant gift certificates, golf foursomes, jewelry, autographed sports memorabilia, and more.

“Over the past six years, we’ve raised more than $370,000 for these incredibly deserving charities,” Kadushin noted. “We are especially grateful to our generous sponsors, including AAA Northeast, Westfield Bank, PeoplesBank, PIMCO, DiStefano Financial, Elm Electric, and M&T Bank, as well as Curry Honda and Teddy Bear Pools, who provided prizes for four hole-in-one contests.”

Square One provides food to more than 500 kids a day. The Holyoke School Backpack Program and Pioneer Valley Powerpacks distribute backpacks of nutritious and easy-to-prepare meals to children at the end of each week to enjoy over the weekend. No Kid Hungry is a national organization that raises funds to support school breakfast programs, summer meals, afterschool meals, and more for children throughout the country.

Donations can still be made at feedthekidsgolf.com.