How Community Comes Together Around Food

“Danielle is raising three nieces, has a young child of her own and is taking care of her 83 year old grandmother. Her husband works late and there’s just no way that she can make it into town to get food.”

Clara has short, thinning hair which doesn’t quite match her age. It’s clear that she is not in good health but her frail appearance is overshadowed by the strong emotion she displays when talking about the struggles of her family.

“I know she goes to bed hungry just so those kids can eat. I go to bed hungry so my kid can eat. That’s just what you have to do. What choice do you have?” Clara says as she walks up the steps with the meals she received from the Gleaners’ Summer Meals for Kids Program. With tears in her eyes, she turns and says to the volunteers, “You all don’t know how much this means to us. I don’t know what we would do without it. Thank you.”

Summer Meals for Kids seeks to help Clara, and others who are struggling to put food on the table, by providing five meals per child to take home for the week. This model significantly reduces the transportation burden and means that parents don’t have to spend the time or the money to take their children to a feeding site each day. When families live 15 miles from anywhere, transportation is often a luxury.

Union Co Volunteers

They treated the parents and children who came to the distribution like members of their own families and proactively told them about all the other resources available to them. Stakeholders of all types have come together to help Gleaners implement its BackSacks: Weekend Food for Kids Program in both elementary schools, a School-Based Pantry in the high school, and three Summer Meals sites – all in the past six months. This community is truly a profile in compassion and it shows in the eyes of Clara.

In my time as a Child Hunger Corps Member at Gleaners, few moments have impacted me as much as this. Clara and these volunteers collectively represent everything that our work in youth programs is about. I couldn’t have felt more proud to stand alongside the volunteers as a partner and offer a helping hand to a woman who is simply trying to provide for the children she loves.