I’ve always believed one of my parenting jobs is to guide my children’s eyes to truly see and respect those around them. Especially others who are different or less fortunate, in need of nutritious food, clean water and shelter.
Often at our dinner table, we talk about children who are in need of a meal packed full of nutrients to keep their bodies strong, healthy and growing properly. I’m not talking about 30 years ago when dinnertime meant parents threatening their kids into eating disorders with the “clean plate” method. Nor the pitiful line, “There are children in China who are starving!” Not sure why the Chinese got stuck in the middle of it, but placing guilt on kids to eat when their bodies aren’t hungry is not the greatest plan.
For over a decade, I’ve been supporting Harvesters. It is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to “feed hungry people today and work to end hunger tomorrow.” Throughout 26 counties in Kansas and Missouri, they have provided food and essentials to over 600 agencies since 1979.
Why do they do this? Because according to Harvesters, in our area alone, one out of seven persons is “food insecure.” And 127,190 children, translated to one out of five, are food insecure in the Kansas City area. Almost 40 percent of them don’t qualify for federal assistance, so their only hope for a meal is from charities. This is unacceptable.
So when one daughter’s Girl Scout troop was asked to help an organization pack food into backpacks, I insisted both my girls come. The “BackSnack” program provides backpacks filled with food, so the school’s can discreetly help children in need every Friday. This ensures children have food for the weekend.
It does break my heart to think what happens on a long weekend or during school breaks.
Pounding volunteerism into my children’s brains, with this hands-on experience, gave me a sense of parental accomplishment. It finally got through to my daughters. I thought the dinner talks were getting through to them, but they only had part of it.
When volunteers were calling out for more food containers and were naming the schools my daughters had heard of, it hit them like a ton of bricks. These were kids their age, who couldn’t afford to play soccer or attend dance class. They didn’t go on trips to Target to buy cool new clothes for school or go on vacations to Disney World. These children who might be sitting next to them in music class were struggling just to get some food.
“There are this many kids who can’t eat on the weekends!” said my daughter with frightened eyes.
That is the look I hope everyone would have in their eyes when they hear of this happening around them. Even friends at their school could be secretly heading to the office to get their sustenance for the next 48 hours.
“Mommy, those backpacks aren’t very big.”
“No. No they aren’t,” I said with an aching heart.
Thanks to this experience, my family feels even more blessed for what we have. I didn’t even need to guide my girls’ eyes, for they opened wide on their own. Now they are looking forward to our next volunteering event.
Thank you, Harvesters and to the hundreds of volunteers and supporters who give their time, money and food to those who matter.
Because we all matter.
For more information on how to help, visit harvesters.org.