I just had the privilege to spend my lunch break with some of the children that take advantage of the Summer Lunch Program here at the Friendship Centre. This program came to fruition through a partnership with the Northern Illinois Food Bank, we are one of approximately 140 sites across Northern Illinois that help to provide meals for approximately 5,000 kids at risk of hunger. This program helps to fill the gap that occurs during summer break when the federal school lunch programs are not available.
I went into the gymnasium, where all the children have lunch, to take a few pictures of the kids enjoying the meal of the day. Today’s menu included pita and hummus, carrots, a plum and milk. While taking pictures some of the kids came up to me to see the pictures I took which led to several conversations. Some were about today’s meal, others were about their favorite lunch and others wanted to talk to me about what the rest of the day is going to hold for them.
Every conversation I had was with more than one kid at a time. In fact, everyone eating lunch was having a great time with at least 5 other people and that got me thinking. How much more fun is it for these children to be having lunch with their peers than alone at their house. It almost doesn’t matter what the menu is, what really matters is that they are able to spend time with other kids.
Just think about it, there were almost 100 kids in the gym today when I went in there, if we weren’t hosting this program chances are a good number of those kids would be at home eating alone or with their siblings…1 maybe 2 at the most. They’d probably be watching TV during lunch and most likely go back to playing video games right afterwards. That is not the case for the children I saw today, they were nowhere near a TV. They were playing with each other, talking about going swimming or doing other activities.
The next time I walk past the gym during lunchtime, instead of walking past like I always do, I am going to stop in and have a conversation with several of the children and laugh with them, make them eat their vegetables, and most of all care for them. I’m going to do this because when I was with them today I realized this: we’re not just feeding their stomachs; we are also feeding their souls.