Thursday, February 5, 2015

Time for family dinner!

Stop and think back to your last dinner. I am sure the thoughts are many and diverse - it could have been at a restaurant with family, your favorite show was on and so you sat in the living room and ate, maybe it was a quick meal by yourself before heading off to an event, or the scene when you get home from work and meal preparation begins then, as a family, you all sit around the table and enjoy the food, conversation, and fun!

This last scene was the first thought that came to my mind. I grew up in a home where at least 5 nights out of the week I would sit at the table with my family and enjoy a full dinner. If not at home we were at a restaurant or event. We would laugh, talk about our days and just enjoy each other’s company. I imagine for most of you this was the scene that came to mind and I am sure the thoughts were full of great memories of times with family and friends. Even now when I venture home from college my family is still sure to have a couple of nice sit down dinners.

These thoughts on family dinners came to me yesterday when the site supervisor at the Community Youth Program (CYP) at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Roanoke shared with me that the kids that come to the CYP really look forward to sitting around a table and enjoying a meal with other children.  She said that they don’t get that at home, the resources for a full meal just aren't there.  The program serves 25 children and they are all categorized as being low-income and at-risk, a combination that no child should be a part of. The supervisor continued and stated that many of the families have food but it is just not the right food in pursuing a well rounded diet of grains, vegetables, fruits, dairy, etc. Many of the families only have access and enough money for snack foods such as chips and cookies. This is a textbook example of food insecurity - a lack of access to enough food for an active, healthy life for all household members as well as limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate foods.

This is where Feeding America Southwest Virginia steps to the plate with the help from the USDA in providing nutritious and whole meals to hundreds of children throughout the summer months. The meals vary and contains items such as chicken or tuna salad, sunflower seeds, apple sauce cups, crackers, beef and cheese sticks and much more. There is also a selection of juices such as grape, apple, orange and the all important dairy group covered with a white or chocolate milk. In every site that I have been to the kids point out items that they don't like such as tuna salad but then all of them are sure to find something that they really really enjoy, with big favorites being the sunflower seeds and beef stick. It's been a joy to see their faces when they talk of the food and hear that they are truly enjoying it!

The site supervisor shared her joy for the children with me through one simple story. She said that a couple years back there was a little girl and her mom had stopped in at the Community Youth Program. The girl was excited to find that she was getting a dinner and when she received it she turned to her mom and said, "Look mom! We won't have to worry about dinner tonight!" The supervisor said she had tears come to her eyes. 

Please feel free to comment and share your stories, whether they have to do with food insecurity or another cause that you feel passionate about or have volunteered with, the more awareness we put forth, the more change we create.

For more information on the Summer Food Service Program:

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