Did you know that children are at risk of going hungry in Los Angeles County more than in any other county in the nation based on a report from Feeding America? According to Share Our Strength, more than 1 million children and teens in Los Angeles are eligible for subsidized meals and may be at risk of hunger, especially during the summer months. Of those, 650,000, more than half, are considered “food insecure.”
The statistics are staggering and a little overwhelming. Hunger in America is a real problem and it is unacceptable. There is so much wealth in our country and yet so many children struggle to get enough to eat. I know poverty is a very complex difficult issue, but feeding a child is simple. Very simple.
Loyola Marymount University (LMU) has a long history of service to others. In fact, it is one of the institution’s core values. It is an honor to be a chef at LMU and serve our 6,000 students. But I’m also very fortunate to serve the next generation of students through a unique summer feeding initiative. Every summer we support the Feeding Our Future program, a summer feeding initiative that provides meals to children in need who are out of school for the summer. Supporting Feeding Our Future has offered an opportunity to positively impact my community and our participation leaves me with a sense of pride that cannot be found elsewhere. My only hope is that through telling our story, others are equally inspired to take action. As a chef, pleasing others through food drives my passion. This program speaks to the core of my purpose as a chef. It is my team’s small contribution to addressing the much larger issue of childhood hunger.
I, along with my team, am so proud to be a part of the solution. But the real heroes of this story are the men and women at Mar Vista Family Center (MVFC) for their tireless efforts to support the community and provide nutritious meals to the local children most at risk for hunger during the summer months. Through our Feeding Our Future program, MVFC is able to serve 21,000 meals to children at risk of hunger during the summer months. These children are the future of our community and MVFC supports them in so many ways. The MVFC was founded 37 years ago on the Westside of Los Angeles in an at-risk community populated by economically-disadvantaged families. The founders’ vision was that the center would not just serve the neighborhood, but be an integral part of the community, run by community residents. Today, MVFC is primarily staffed by local residents who have themselves participated in the Center’s programs.
Every August MVFC hosts an annual BBQ to celebrate the families it supports. Attending this event is so rewarding – we have the opportunity to meet the children who we have been making lunch for every day. It is so meaningful to know our little contribution is making a difference in the lives of local children. It is always a humbling experience, that I am thankful to be a part of.
Childhood hunger is not just in big cities or small towns. Every community struggles with the challenge of hunger. Every community, including yours. I encourage you to look for ways you can get involved and make a difference in the fight against childhood. It is a good feeling to be a small part of the big solution.
Dana Massimiani is Chef de Cuisine at Sodexo at Loyola Marymount University