“I’ve learned that you shouldn’t go through life with a catcher’s mitt on both hands; you need to be able to throw something back.”
~ Dr. Maya Angelou
It is one thing to read an article or hear a news story about hunger; however, it’s another thing to witness it firsthand. More than 16 million children live in households that lack the means to get enough nutritious food on a regular basis. According to the Atlanta Community Food Bank, 1 in 7.5 people, or an estimated 755,400 people, in metro Atlanta and north Georgia turn to food pantries and meal service programs to feed themselves and their families each year. This includes more than 164,000 children! Together with the Sodexo Feeding Our Future program, the Andrew and Walter Young Family YMCA is working to combat childhood hunger in Atlanta by providing meals to those children most at risk of food insecurity during the summer months.
Sodexo’s Feeding Our Future program has had a tremendous impact on the 1,400 youth participants. By providing breakfast, lunch and snacks, our students have had access to wholesome and nutritious food all summer. Typically when you hear the word ‘free food’ you may not think of exceptional customer service and/or high-quality food but it is just the opposite. The Sodexo staff and volunteers are wonderful and always strive to serve the kids a wide variety of appealing options. We appreciate the blessing of working with such a dedicated team.
As I walk through the halls of our building I see the children eating apples and smiling, drinking milk and talking and sharing their cookies while laughing. It makes my day to see them so happy and it is a reflection of the importance of nourishment, social skills and a safe environment. I have had the privilege to work at the YMCA for almost 25 years and Sodexo has been one of our most compassionate and committed partners.
Providing food goes further than making sure our kids are fed well-balanced and fulfilling meals. I will never forget how one of our teens expressed his gratitude for the meals provided by Feeding Our Future. Anthony (age 14) said, “Ms. King, you just don’t know how much I like this food! Can I take some home? We do not eat this good at home. I love the fruits and vegetables, sometimes the broccoli, they give us!” To me, that says it all! Several of our participants rely on the meals we serve to feed them daily.
Much like candid advice from a mentor, a kind hug from a friend or a great conversation with a stranger, the Sodexo Feeding Our Future program is laying down a foundation of support that is imperative for our children. The meals being served literally make our kids stronger and brighter by nourishing their bodies and minds from the inside out.
Diane Baker-King is Executive Director of the Andrew and Walter Young Family YMCA in Atlanta.