When school was out for the summer, many families worried about how they would feed their children. The Food Bank and our supporters gave them hope.
At Project Access, one of the Food Bank’s partner agencies, children giggle and scamper to their seats after putting away their activities and washing their hands. In Rowland Heights, about 20 local children are waiting to line up to receive lunch. On this day, chicken and waffles are on the menu along with fruit, milk and a vegetable. A couple of them can expect to receive a different warm meal to accommodate their dietary restrictions.
They’re happy, they’re full of energy and they wouldn’t be without the Food Bank’s Summer Lunch Program. “If it wasn’t for partners like the Food Bank, who knows how many kids would not have a warm meal during the summer,” said Belinda Rodriguez, Resident Services Manager for Project Access. “We provide a safe space with educational fun, and because of the Food Bank we are also able to provide a warm meal.”
Melissa Flores is another familiar face for the families who visit Project Access. She is the Resident Services Coordinator and she makes sure that all of the meals from the Food Bank are stored correctly and served at the right temperature. She handles every detail with meticulous care and knows everyone she serves by name. “As a nonprofit, our budget is limited,” she says. “Without the Food Bank, we would not have this program,” Flores explains that Project Access would only be able to provide a snack, maybe a granola bar and juice, instead of a full, warm meal.
“Many of the families we serve are single-income families,” she says. “Serving the meals to these children helps those families to supplement and put their income towards more pressing needs like rent and other bills.”
In Commerce, children are playing on the Brostow Park Playground adjacent to the Commerce Public Library where lunch will soon be served. On this day, they will receive chicken, pasta, vegetable medley and the usual milk and fruit. The youngest child served sits in a stroller where his mother feeds him one pea or carrot at a time.
“We have this program here because we are in a community where many of the children do qualify for lunch and breakfast in school because they are low income,” says Beatriz Sarmiento, Director of Library Services. “We want to make sure there is no gap and that kids are eating during the summer.”
The daily meal schedule is posted outside the library near the pool with a sign that says, “Kids and teens eat free here!” Sarmiento says the need in the surrounding area is great. “If we didn’t have this program, there would be a void in this community, I really believe that.”
Amy, 28, is one of several parents we met at Project Access. She brings two of her three children to the Summer Lunch Program daily and says the program helps her family a lot. “They get full meals, warm meals and have lots of nutrition that I probably wouldn’t be able to give them,” Amy says. “Having nutritious food is sometimes a little hard for us because usually, those foods are a little more expensive.” Amy recalls times when she, her husband and even her mother-in-law went without food because they wanted to save everything for her kids and the ones she watches during the day, but that this program helps her family save money so they don’t have to make as many sacrifices.
“Everyone goes through hard times, and we’ve had our fair share,” she says. “I am grateful for everyone who makes it possible for my kids to come here. It makes a big difference in my household and for many others as well.”
Our partner agencies can’t meet the needs of our shared community without the Food Bank, and we can’t meet our partners’ needs without the generous support of our community. The problem of hunger can be minimized, but it will not be eradicated unless we all work together. That is why we are grateful for our donors, volunteers, partners and everyone who agrees that hunger has no place in LA County. Thank you for fighting hunger this summer.
Just like summer, the beginning of the school year can be difficult for children in food-insecure homes and expensive for their families. Start fundraising for our Back-to-School campaign today and you’ll be making a difference in the life of a young student in our community.