As part of my job I go and eat at the elementary schools, middle schools, and high schools from time to time. It is entertaining to say the least, we hear about EVERYTHING that goes on in these kids' lives while sitting at the lunch tables. Parents, here is your warning, your kids, they tell us EVERYTHING that you say, do, and what happens at your houses, nothing is kept secret. Anyways, back to the point, around the beginning of May, I began asking kids, if they were excited for summer, at this point I was fairly convinced that the snow was not returning.
I remember one day sitting at a table of second grade girls, and I asked about summer, a couple told me stories of visiting grandparents, playing with siblings, summer camp, camping with family, and swimming the days away, another couple of girls looked at me with straight faces and told me of the hatred for summer. I ignorantly assumed it was due to their love of winter, I asked if they loved the snow, and the sternly replied no. I was confused. I asked then why did they hate summer. And with innocent and young eyes they looked at me and as clear as day said "because I am hungry and lonely." It took my breath away.
I couldn't imagine a second grader being hungry in the summer. As I probed the situation I learned: the girl's mother, works several jobs and is often not home, her dad works shift work and any shift he can pick up, she is left at home with her seventh grade brother. Sometimes they have food in the house, sometimes they don't, sometimes mom or dad brings something home for them to eat, sometimes they don't. She loves school because she is among the 2,000 kids who is on the "free and reduced" lunch plan in our school district. She comes to school and gets breakfast and lunch every day. Once a month she is sent home with a backpack full of snacks. She loves school because she gets fed.
My heart broke and as I sat and heard from this second grade girl I held back the tears. Kids in my own neighborhood were going hungry and this was unacceptable to me. Soooooo I began talking to my colleagues and they too had begun to hear similar stories and we knew we had a problem. We talked to the social workers at the schools and they could easily echo our problem, they knew the reality and how serious the issue was. We debated waiting a year to get our heads wrapped around the problem and figure out a solution, but we knew we would then have kids sitting around going hungry in the summer. We couldn't wait.
So we launched what has become known as "Operation Sandwich." Every Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday we hand out sandwiches, fruit, veggies, at three local elementary schools and a park. On Thursdays we try to stuff the bags extra full with extra snacks to help tide the kids over until Monday when we see them again. We dream of expanding our ministry to five days a week in the future. We dream of making more sandwiches in the future. We dream of a day when this problem is no more.
For now, we operation on a prayer and the generosity of hundred of people. We operate with the work of thousands of volunteer hands. We operate knowing that there is a sharp learning curve and we are adapting as we go, we are learning each and every day, and our numbers are growing as word gets out. We operate until all those little bellies are filled and back in school.
Come September we will re-evaluate. We will come back to the drawing board and re-tool for next summer and know we need to do things differently, we need to change somethings, we need to apply for grants. For now, we press on day by day, praying for daily bread and working as the heart, the hands, and the feet of the Triune God in the world.
If by any chance you'd be interested in donating that would be AMAZING! Please donate at: http://www.volunteerspot.com/login/entry/595331376074 for monetary donations. If you are interested in amazoning us some delicious peanut butter, jelly, or snacks, comment and I'll get you an address to mail it to. By no means feel any pressure to donate, just felt like I should include it as an option.