Summer Food 4 Kids
by Norma Duerksen, Pastor, Trinity Mennonite Church, Hillsboro, KS
We thought we knew what we were doing. We would volunteer every day this summer to feed at-risk children ages 8-18 in our town. We would hand them their pre-packed sack lunch which contained a nutritionally balanced meal. We would give them a carton of milk which we had cooled in the refrigerator. We would hand them a swimming pass for the day and that would be it. We knew we would be doing something important, something this community really needed.
The “we” are the people of Trinity Mennonite Church in Hillsboro, KS. We are retired farmers. People in their 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s. The women love to cook. The men love to help the church reach out to kids. So together we volunteered every noon hour of this past summer, Monday through Friday, for three months.
Little did we know how we would be taught a thing or two. Like the day the moms walked in. We had been serving children from ages 8-18 from families who qualified for free or reduced priced lunches at school. Now that school was out, they did not receive free breakfasts or lunches that the school usually provided. During summer time, food was scarce for these children. We were happy to help fill that need. But then the moms started coming along with their children. We were reluctant to feed them the sack lunches because we had ordered a set number and didn’t want to run out. We had ordered them for the children—not the moms. What were we to do? Turn them away? Then it dawned on us that hunger hits everybody in the family. Parents and children. Parents make better decisions about their children if they are nutritionally full. So we learned to welcome them and feed them. We even cooked extra hot meat dishes to supplement the meager sack lunches. The moms taught us a lot about the struggles of poverty. We learned to open our hearts a bit further.
We learned that Bible stories can reassure us. When a boy brought his meager lunch to Jesus, Jesus blessed it and broke it and there was enough. We, too, had enough. We had boxes of food left over. All were satisfied. There was no need to worry, or hoard, or deny food to anyone.
As volunteers we thought we would be loved and appreciated by these kids. They did all that! But we didn’t expect to have grown so attached to them. We loved the way they teased and joked at the table. We loved how they respected the rules. We loved to watch them progress from being defiant to inviting. We loved holding the babies so their mothers could eat undisturbed. We expected to give a lot. We didn’t expect to get so much back. Our summer days were filled with the life of a younger generation. We reveled in their energy. Now that school has started, we miss them.
Summer Food 4 Kids was made possible by a Loaves & Fishes Grant, using Vision 2012 funds, offered by the WDC Resource Commission.