Downtown Fresno favorite Kids Cafe 2019 closing shop

Kate Nemarich Image
Monday, May 20, 2024
Downtown Fresno favorite Kids Cafe 2019 closing shop
A favorite downtown Fresno lunch spot is closing which built a following beyond the food.

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- A favorite downtown Fresno lunch spot is closing which built a following beyond the food.

Kids Café 2019 is closing after six years of hiring students with special needs to learn skills and serve the community.

The cafe on Mariposa Mall is still serving up lunch to staff at the Fresno County Superintendent of Schools building in Downtown Fresno but will soon close completely.

It was opened to teach vocational skills to more than 600 students ages 16 to 22 from across the county.

However, rising costs have made it difficult to keep the business up and running and program leaders are looking to give students opportunities beyond the restaurant industry partnering with more than 40 local businesses across the county.

"I think it expands opportunities for students, instead of limiting them," said Christina Borges, Exec. Dir. of Special Education. "Instead of just coming to one particular place and learning a skill from one particular industry, we can now get our students out into multiple industries."

Staff members are also hoping to give students who live farther away from Fresno possibilities for growth closer to home while still having support from the county office.

"Being closer to your home and a community where you could potentially obtain work after graduation, I think it's critical," said Borges. "Also with the program we have set up right now there's always an FCSS employee, a teacher, a paraeducator, or a project specialist with our students, even when they're out in their community jobs."

Former Fresno County Schools Superintendent Jim Yovino took to Instagram to express his disappointment with the decision.

His post contained several photos including one of him with employees of the cafe at the ribbon cutting in January 2017.

The caption says the cafe didn't just bring value to the students, but to customers as well reading in part "Adults in the community not only were provided with an amazing lunch experience, but they were able to interact with the most kind, compassionate and caring young adults in our county, our students with special needs. I join with so many who are incredibly sad to see this cafe now closed to the public."

Action News asked the county office of education about Yovino's reaction to the news.

"I think that it was the right decision to open Kids Cafe in 2017 and I think we're making the right decision now, as you know, we're considering fiscal impacts, but really wanting to make sure that we are promoting more inclusive opportunities for students out in existing businesses," said Borges.

Kids Cafe will close completely at the end of June. The superintendent's office says it's already working on other placements for students currently working in the cafe.

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