A few weeks ago, I had the chance to visit a summer feeding site organized by Food Finders Food Bank in Indiana. The food bank provides free lunch for kids at numerous sites throughout the summer — a time when some parents struggle to feed their kids without the help of free school lunch.
The site I visited was located at a low-income housing community on the outskirts of Layfayette. Blocks of clay-colored, brick apartment buildings surrounded a large grassy field with a playground on one end. A tent marked Food Finder's designated lunch spot, so we began setting up tables and chairs underneath.
We had barely lifted a finger when we hear a shot come across the field. "You guys!" cried a little boy, "Let's go! They're setting up!" A handful of kids raced over — they'd obviously been waiting all day for this moment. They'd just have to wait a bit longer, explained the site coordinator. Lunch wasn't ready quite yet.
As we continued to set up, three interns arrived in a van filled with food. The interns are dietetic students at nearby Purdue and run the program each day. More kids wandered, leaped and ran towards us as the interns unloaded sandwiches, bananas, milk and juice onto the tables. By the time lunch was served, about 40 kids were waiting to eat.
Food Finder's summer feeding program is unique, because it doesn't just serve kids lunch, it provides nutrition education as well. On this day, interns lead games and lessons that taught kids about MyPlate. "We really see a need for kids to learn about nutrition at this complex," said intern Alexis. "Often times when we serve certain vegetables, kids won't know what they are — which demonstrates that they don't get a variety of fruits and vegetables at home."
As lunch and its accompanying activities came to a close, I began talking with a young girl named Wenona. She is probably the most articulate girl I have ever met. "You know, this food is a big help," she said to me. "My mom struggles, and sometimes she has to go without food and other things so my sister and I can eat three meals. I know this food helps a lot of kids in need." Her neighbor — an adult — nodded in agreement. She has pancreatic cancer, and even in her sickness, she has had to skip meals so her six year old can eat.
Times at tough for some of the kids attending the summer feeding program, but from their faces and demeanor, you really couldn't tell. They seem like regular kids, playing on the playground, running through the grass, and, thanks to Food Finders Food Bank, eating enough to enjoy summer — happy, healthy and hunger-free.