I volunteer at a summer meals site in Arizona. This is what hunger looks like when school's out.

Summer meals program director
July 10, 2019
by Theresa Peters

I know firsthand that for a lot of kids, the summer isn’t fun. 

It should be an energizing  break from school. Kids should hang out, go to the pool, see movies. They should get to just be kids. But where I’m from in Phoenix, that’s just not always the case, because they’re hungry. And I see it almost every day.

I’m a volunteer at the St. Mary’s Food Bank Alliance’s Knight Community Center. At the center, kids receive free summer meals while their parents pick up food at the attached food pantry. I’m in charge of the meals. I set up the tables, make sure everyone has a seat, and serve the food. 

I see a ton of kids every time I volunteer. We serve about 110 meals between breakfast and lunch each day. It’s definitely busy, especially around lunchtime, but it’s absolutely worth it, because I love being around the kids.

Girl at summer meal program in Arizona drinking milk
Iliana is just one kid who Theresa has served summer meals to in her time volunteering at the community center.

In fact, I’ve gotten to know them pretty well. And, I know they really appreciate the food. Once, a couple kids blew me kisses just because I served them a meal.  That might seem like a funny image, but it’s not meant to be. It just goes to show how much these meals mean to the kids that come here.

And it’s not just the kids who tell me how much they appreciate the summer meals. A lot of the parents tell me what a great thing it is that we’re doing here too. I’ve talked to parents who are in between jobs, or who don’t work during the summer because daycare is simply too expensive.  I’ve also talked to parents who are working but still not making enough to always have breakfast and lunch for their children.

It’s pretty clear that if it weren’t for these meals, a lot of the kids who eat here wouldn’t consistently have breakfast or lunch during the summer.

And that’s why I do what I do. Every kid should eat, it’s that simple. Kids shouldn’t worry about the summer because they don’t know if they’ll have breakfast or lunch. And if what I do as a volunteer helps brighten a kid’s day and keeps them healthy and fed when school’s out, then I’ve done my job.

Theresa Peters is a retired electrician who volunteers three times a week at a summer meals site in Phoenix, Arizona.