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Gina Reardon: Catering by Design Owner Sets Sights on Eliminating Childhood Hunger

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Who better to understand the positive power of good food than chefs? That’s why so many in the culinary arts have signed on to help No Kid Hungry, a national movement to ensure children receive proper nutrition. Here in Kansas City, our No Kid Hungry movement has been measured, stirred and baked to perfection by Gina Reardon, owner of Catering by Design.

“It’s hard to imagine that hunger is all around us in Kansas City, impacting every neighborhood, rich or poor,” stated Gina. “Eliminating hunger is critical to the success of our country because we depend on the next generation. Children can’t be equipped to succeed without adequate nutrition, which helps them learn and sets good eating habits for a lifetime. I also remind people to not be judgmental and look at it with a large heart. Every step we take with No Kid Hungry makes a difference for children.”

Love for Cooking
Preparing great food comes naturally to Gina. Her parents loved to cook and that appreciation was passed down to her. “My parents were always cooks and interested me in cooking at a young age,” recalled the Brookside, Missouri, resident. “When we moved here from Seattle, my mom joined a gourmet group to meet new people. From there, the pleasure of creating and serving great food impacted the entire family. I was baking at nine. My parents set my interest in food at an early age, which gave me a high level of comfort in the kitchen.”

The ease of being in the galley and creating good food are essential for Gina, and she’s passed that spirit onto her children. “It’s important to be comfortable in the kitchen, not to get agitated and just go for it. When I taught my youngest to cook, I told him that he understood the concept of measurement and I let him give it a try on his own. He did great,” she laughed. “I say if it doesn’t turn out, then you learn from it. Don’t let fear stand in your way to keep you from trying something different. You can get better over time as you hone your skill sets and your sense of taste. You’ll soon discover what is missing in a dish and what it needs.”

A New Career
But moving from cooking in her kitchen to cooking for the masses happened quite by accident for Gina. A former sister-in-law asked her to create a 40th anniversary party for her parents and at the same time an ordination celebration for Gina’s first husband. The event was an incredible success. Bolstered by her accomplishment, Gina offered to create other dinner parties for those in attendance. From there, she booked an anniversary celebration, a cotillion tea and an office holiday party. Later, a friend offered to sell Gina her professional kitchen in the West Plaza area, and she jumped at the chance. That was 17 years ago and Gina has never looked back. “I started Catering by Design as a part-time job because my youngest was still an infant. My husband, John, who managed a French bakery on the Plaza, joined me later, and Catering by Design became a full-time job for us.”

Catering by Design offers fresh seasonal ingredients with a focus on local sources. Gina describes it as American cuisine with an emphasis on high-quality fruits and vegetables, meats and fish that taste fresh and healthy. John’s passion is expertly grilled and roasted meats, but he’s especially known for his smoked salmon. Special requests can be accommodated, and gluten free and vegetarian are growing offerings on her menus.

“We cater private social events in homes, corporate events and other venues,” shared Gina. “But my favorite is doing a dinner party. With a smaller event, you can do spectacular components of the meal that you can’t do for large groups. And then you top it off with great desserts.”

Eliminating Childhood Hunger
While her love of cooking established one of the most successful catering businesses in the KC metro, Gina also employs her impressive skill set in helping others through No Kid Hungry. Two years ago, a Facebook posting from a friend in LA spoke of her involvement with No Kid Hungry; she hosted a successful bake sale to raise money for the program. Gina’s interest was piqued. Following links to the national webpage for the nonprofit, she learned about the critical need that No Kid Hungry tries to fill. In our nation of plenty, one of every five children lives in a household that doesn’t have consistent access to food. This equates to a staggering 16 million children.

“My friend posted about hosting a bake sale in her community and that interested me. I can bake, so why not do it,” recalled Gina. “But I wanted an impressive bake sale. I asked other leaders from the KC culinary community to work with me. My confidence certainly wasn’t misplaced. Our first bake sale was in October 2014. We had about eight weeks to plan, and 12 chefs and a half dozen talented bakers agreed to supply their best goods.”

When she committed to hosting the bake sale, Gina was required to submit a goal. She reasoned the event could bring in $3,500. When everything was counted, it brought in $7,091, winding up fourth in the country for No Kid Hungry bake sales. In 2015, Gina set her sights even higher, with a goal of $10,000 for the next bake sale. This time the KC event brought in more than $27,000, missing the national number one team by less than $500. “The benefit of being first in the nation is that a $25,000 grant will be awarded to No Kid Hungry on behalf of your community,” she remarked. “That grant helps provide an additional 250,000 meals.”

A Growing Success
The bake sale for 2016 was held in June, and Gina and her team of volunteers, including co-chair Nancy Smith, co-owner and general manager of Michael Smith Restaurant and Extra Virgin, outdid themselves again. A culinary weekend was created with a Country Brunch and Bloody Mary smackdown, entertainment, food trucks, pastry bar and fun for all. Three caterers, 17 restaurants, three food trucks and many volunteers pitched in to help.

“It was exhausting, but when I looked out and saw the event it was so much better and bigger than I imagined,” Gina recalled. “During the event, I got up on the stage and was so overcome with emotion. I looked at it as a mom and as someone in the culinary community, witnessing the incredible contributions of others and those enjoying the day. I feel lucky to do this. I know that it’s making a difference, and I know my kids are proud of me.”

All that hard work is paying off for Gina and her team. This year Kansas City is poised to be the number one national independent bake sale/fundraising team for No Kid Hungry with an amazing $94,275 coming from the culinary event. Gina is confident they’ll hit $100,000 for 2016, aggregating the proceeds from smaller events. Given that out-of-pocket expenses are negligible due to donations, nearly every dollar raised will fight childhood hunger.

Community involvement is highly encouraged with No Kid Hungry. Hosting bake sales, participating as a volunteer at a bake sale or other culinary event, holding Friendsgiving fundraising celebrations and supporting Dine Out for No Kid Hungry during the month of September are all ways people can show support. Gina’s KC Team has developed a novel fundraiser idea by encouraging local kids, with the help of their families, to host old-fashioned lemonade stands and mini-bake sales. Several thousand dollars are raised from these events. “We’re a team working together to make a bigger impact on childhood hunger,” commented Gina. “We all have strengths to share and together we can achieve more. That’s the best part of this experience.”

Efforts Support Good Nutrition
Money raised by No Kid Hungry is awarded in the form of grants to eliminate hunger. Harvesters, the community food network, has received money to help fund its summer meals program. Volunteers go into rural areas to support meal programs. Cooking Matters classes teach parents to plan, shop and prepare meals on a budget. Donations help underwrite school breakfasts and after-school meals for low-income students. In fact, every dollar can help children connect to as many as ten school and summer meals.

“No Kid Hungry is important for our community. Educators say when kids get breakfast they pay attention, miss fewer days from being sick and are less disruptive in class,” noted Gina. “By the end of fifth grade, kids who don’t get proper nutrition can be behind in reading as much as three grade levels. By the time they get to high school, they’re dropping out or they’re saddled with life-long health issues because they’ve been eating junk food. Addressing hunger for kids can positively impact them throughout their lives and the community as whole.”

Ensuring our children receive proper nutrition is a responsibility for the entire community. As a successful caterer, Gina has experienced firsthand the impact good food can have on a person, and now she wants to share that bounty. Her commitment to No Kid Hungry comes naturally to her, just like whipping up a delicious appetizer, mouthwatering main dish or decadent dessert. But she also regards No Kid Hungry as an important part of the recipe in reducing hunger in our country.

“Eliminating childhood hunger is an important part of the conversation of how to strengthen our community,” Gina shared. “I have never felt more certain that this is what I should be doing. In fact, I can’t imagine changing that trajectory in life. I’m so proud of everyone who plays a part in our success with No Kid Hungry. I am just so grateful.” ■

To get involved with No Kid Hungry, visit the website at To learn more about Catering by Design, visit