13 Sep A life without happy food memories.
Intern Kylie here.
Before this summer, I had never made 1500 sandwiches in 4 hours. Slice of bread + mustard + ham + slice of bread. Repeat…1499 more times. I actually wasn’t alone making the sandwiches, but was with 6 other people who had all come to volunteer at a non-profit organization called Kids’ Meals. The mission of the Houston-based program is to “end hunger among children by delivering nutritious meals to the doors of children in need, free of cost, every weekday year round.” Kids’ Meals is unique in the population who they are serving as they provide meals to children who are too old to receive benefits from WIC and too young to attend school to receive free breakfast/lunches.
Volunteering with Kids’ Meals taught me that in our nation, Texas (according to The Houston Food Bank) has the highest rate of food insecurity among children. To me, there are few things that sound more terrifying than being in a situation that you cannot change. Children facing food insecurity and hunger are living in a world of just that, they’re in a situation they cannot change. They can’t get a job so they can make money to buy food…they’re helpless. And all they know is that they’re hungry.
Interning with Robin this summer I’ve learned a lot. A lot about owning your own business, a lot about possible career opportunities, a lot about how to turn my dreams into a reality, a lot about the importance of networking. But something I didn’t expect to learn was the importance of food memories. Specifically, how food memories are something to be treasured and celebrated. If you asked me what my very first food memory is, I’d say eating cookie dough with my grandma. It’s by far one of my fondest memories. Working with Kids’ Meals gave me the opportunity to possibly be a part of a child’s food memories. And to make these children’s food memories be more than just memories of hunger.
As a volunteer, my job for the day was simply, “sandwich maker.” Complete with plastic gloves and a hair net. On the menu was ham sandwiches made from 100% whole grain bread + a nutrigrain bar + 100% fruit orange juice.
The way Kids’ Meals works is that workers/volunteers prepare the lunches and then the lunches are loaded into coolers and placed on a big van for delivery into the community. I didn’t have the opportunity to ride along in the van to deliver the lunches, but hopefully in the future I will. From what I hear, it’s a joyful sight to see…kids with huge smiles on their faces running out of their homes to greet you and get their lunch.
I find it next to impossible to volunteer selflessly. I was selfish in that volunteering at Kids’ Meals made me feel like I was being part of a child’s food memories. It gave me a joy and happiness just knowing that these kids won’t have to be hungry for lunch today. And hopefully, when they are grown and reminiscing about their childhood, they won’t remember hunger, but will instead remember generous people in big white vans handing out brown paper sacks filled with a delicious lunch.
Image and quote source: Kids’ Meals