Recent neighborhood gun violence in Erie has all of us concerned on many levels. Local kids are telling reporters they don’t feel safe to go outside and ride their bikes or hang out with their friends. And, who can blame them?
At its very basic level, the Y’s Meals for Kids program is providing healthy meals that low-income children otherwise would not receive. But, digging deeper, the Meals for Kids program is providing a safe place, full of caring adults – and, today, that is just as important to the nearly 70 children eating dinner at the Martin Luther King Center.
Kids as young as 4 and as old as 14 are under the watchful and caring eyes of Y and MLK staff – and, it’s smiles and giggles all around. The playground is the hub for basketball and the gym is the hub for young girls skipping rope and singing “hand-claps”.
When their meal is served, they sit family style – forming a family of sorts among themselves – an element that they long for. We serve chicken salad wraps, green beans and fruit salad. The ladies are served first, then the boys.
I am struck immediately how it was food that brought the kids off the streets into this safe space – where for the time they are with us, kids can be kids.