Eating is not just about food
By Craig Nash
Last year was my first summer to help promote the Summer Meals program in the Waco area, and my favorite story from that time was from a midsummer event the Texas Hunger Initiative arranged at Bellmead’s Brame Park. The park is centrally located, has a splash pad to keep kids and families cool during the hot Heart of Texas summer months, and is a stop along La Vega ISD’s “Lunch Bus Express.” After games had been played and balloons passed out, I sat down at the picnic tables to visit with some families and hear their thoughts about the summer meal program. The story of two families in particular have remained with me, and fuels much of my motivation to expand participation in the Summer Food Service Program.
One was a family with three children, accompanied by their parents and an aunt. The dad worked nights and was blurry eyed after taking a quick nap before joining the family at the park for playtime and lunch. Another group of five kids, all siblings and cousins, was there with a grandmother who takes care of them during the summer while moms and dads are at work. Both families seemed close to the other, and I assumed they were connected somehow through church, school or another of the many avenues where we become friends with other people. When I asked how they knew each other, the sleepy-eyed dad said, “Through this. Summer lunches at the park.” The kids all met the previous summer, and the two families have been close ever since.
Food is never just about food, and child nutrition programs are about more than just providing healthy meals to kids. Did you know that one of the most intimate activities you can do with another human is share a meal? It’s why we eat together so much, and why a city the size of ours will never lack of sit-down restaurants. Sitting across a table from another person while participating in the very primal act of fueling your body with nourishment creates invisible bonds that are helpful to survival. Do you want to strengthen your family? Sit down at the table for a meal. Is your church or civic organization needing something to reestablish comradery and affection for each other? You could spend thousands of dollars on a speaker to come talk about the importance of togetherness, or you can schedule a potluck supper and achieve more affect for less money. And if you want to increase the benefits of neighborliness, developing your community into a place where all are welcome and cared for, you can find a way to share a meal with your neighbors.
Summer Meal providers are gearing up to give you an opportunity to strengthen your community, and there is one surefire thing that parents and caregivers of children can do to help them out: Show up. If your child is in need of food, (which, last I checked, is the case for around 100% of all kids,) then the summer lunch program is for you.
I’m particularly excited about a new lunch site this summer. The Waco ISD “Meals on the Bus” will be making a stop at the newly renovated Seley Park. Calvary Baptist Church, located next door to the park, and other community organizations are planning games and activities for kids at various times during the week. Make it a point to stop by and get to know your neighbors. There will be a special kick-off event for this site on June 5th. To follow details, and learn about times for this and other summer meal locations and times, follow “Texas Hunger Initiative—Waco Regional Office” on Facebook, where we will be sharing all that information as it becomes available.
Craig Nash has lived in Waco since 2000. Since then he has worked at Baylor, been a seminary student, managed a hotel restaurant, been the “Barnes and Noble guy,” pastored a church and once again works for Baylor through the Texas Hunger Initiative. He lives with his dog Jane, religiously re-watches the same 4 series on Netflix over and over again, and considers himself an amateur country music historian.
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