Twelve-year-old Cavari Miller says she knows kids in her neighborhood who don’t eat everyday. 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. When their meal is served, they sit family style – forming a family of sort among themselves – an element that they long for.
“Today, we’re serving chicken salad wraps, green beans and fruit salad. The ladies are served first, then the boys,” says Sheldon McNeill. “It’s the food that brings the kids off the streets into a safe space – where for the time they are with us, kids can be kids.”
Sheldon goes onto say that he chose this job because he believes by helping these kids through small problems they think are big, they’ll learn how to fix it the right way – not through violence. “You have to treat these kids like they’re your own.”
In Erie County, one in five kids lives with food insecurity. For years, the Y has been serving up free food as part of our Meals for Kids program funded by the Walmart Foundation. In 2015, the Y and our partners began to creatively renovate a 72-passenger bus into a mobile meals site – complete with a customized kitchen and cafe-style seating – in order to take meals into neighborhoods where food is a concern for kids. The Food + Fun bus took to the streets in June 2016.
We’ve served over 250,000 meals, introduced many new foods and influenced food choice and education.
We’ve served 10,000 free meals through the Y’s Meals for Kids program in three months.