Thursday, June 28, 2012

Let's Make This a Hunger Free Summer!

She called to a bouncy little boy who immediately dashed from his group of 8 and 9 year old friends to look up at her expectantly.

"This one is a fabulous artist! He is the one who created the pictures I have framed in the library and some in the hallway."

His brown eyes positively sparkled at the praise. And he wasn't shy. Oh no! This young boy (I think of him as Mr. Personality, now) proudly described what we needed to look for and where we should be looking. "Or I can just take you to see them now, if you like!"

We laughed and Rena, the director of the Boys and Girls Club/YMCA of Nashville, TN, sent him back to the game with the assurance that our group of bloggers (some of whom had very fancy and impressive cameras) would definitely check out his art.

We continued to discuss the aspects of the facility and the growth it is able to continue to have, thanks to programs like the The Second Harvest Food Bank which donates healthy food for lunch for these 100-some children. The donated food allows the children's center to focus their allotted budget on enrichment activities like the art classes that this bright-eyed boy was benefiting from. It allows these children to feel empowered in themselves and hopeful for their futures by keeping hunger at bay throughout the summer; a time when countless American kids suffer without the free meals provided through the public schools.

Our group began to leave the gymnasium to finish our tour of the facility when Mr. Personality ran back to Rena's side. "Be sure to check out my art!"

I made sure that we did. How could I not? His chocolate brown eyes reminded me so much of my own 10 year old's that I felt drawn to this little boy. We backtracked to the makeshift library where some lovely pencil drawings were lovingly displayed in black plastic frames.

My heart was, at this point, overwhelmed. What must that mean to a kid? Especially one who might have otherwise been without a place to feel so validated?  What must it mean to a child to not have to focus on the hunger in his belly but instead on the art in his mind? To be able to be a child instead of worrying about where his next meal would come from?

 He is one of the lucky children from the area who is able to be enrolled in a program like the Boys and Girls Club/YMCA. He is lucky enough to not feel the hunger that millions of American children feel every day. He is lucky to be surrounded by staff that obviously loves not only what they do but the very children they care for.

Inspired.

I was lucky enough to be asked to participate in this joint venture by ConAgra Foods and Feeding America. I was proud to help pack hundreds of bags of food that would feed hundreds of kids over a weekend away from programs like the YMCA. Food that would sustain them if their families weren't able to afford it. Food that would allow a boy like Mr. Personality to allow his mind and heart to focus on play and art and books.

Did you know that 21 million children participate in free lunch programs through their schools? Did you know that when school lets out, only about 2.3 million children participate in the summertime lunch programs? You do the math on how many hungry children that equals from June through August...

ConAgra Foods Foundation has pledged $5 million dollars to be donated over a course of 5 years to assist in reaching out to these children in need. And they have made it so easy for any of us to help the children across America from feeling that pain this summer. Simply by downloading a copy of their "Hunger Avengers Activity Booklet", which is an adorable booklet that explains what hunger means for our fortunate children, ConAgra Foods will donate a meal to Feeding America.
Kellie Pickler, me and fellow bloggers and teen volunteers working on weekend bags for hungry children at Second Harvest in Nashville, TN. Photo credit: Dean Dixon AP

Want to do more?

Consider donating directly to Feeding America here. $1 equals 8 meals*.

Volunteer at one of your local food banks! Call them and see what their greatest need is.

SPREAD THE WORD! Share the information about the Hunger Avengers Activity Booklet in every way you can think of! The more it's downloaded, the more meals will be donated. And more children like the ones I met will have a healthier, happier summer.


*According to Feeding America's Website.

Disclaimer: Though I am being compensated by ConAgra Foods to help spread the word about their Hunger-Free Summer campaign, all opinions remain my own.


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