The Kids Meal Program at Holy Cross has long been a place where children and teens can get a nutritious meal, learn respect, and find community. All of these things are vital for young people in a neighborhood where poverty and violence are everyday realities. This week, one neighborhood resident, Jorge O., shares an insider’s perspective on a place that, like the Bread of Life Food Pantry, feeds both body and spirit.
The Kids Meal Program is what it sounds like, a place where kids can get an extra meal, but it is also an example of the way Holy Cross programs teach young people important lessons. I learned about the Kids Meal Program when I was young. A friend told me about this great place where you get free food and have fun. The experience was as my friend promised. I went into the program and was greeted and served a nice hot meal. I sat with kids that I didn’t even know, but it was comfortable, fun, and I enjoyed talking to them.
The program takes place in a café in the downstairs of Casa Romero. The kids are mostly students in middle school (though it is open to kids of all ages), from around the neighborhood. An adult chef and some helpers are there, too, not only to cook but to supervise the large number of kids that visit.
In 2008, Holy Cross gave me a summer job working in the gardens at the Kids Meal Program. The program was full of energy both from the kids and the workers helping out. I was only there to water the garden, but there was still a feeling of welcome while I did the work. After shifts, I would be given food to take home for a job well done. I knew it wasn’t just kids having fun there. The happiness seemed to be contagious.
I recently asked kids to describe the café and they said it was “awesome,” and another said, “It’s just cool. It’s like a part of life.” The times the café is open are Mondays through Friday between 3-5 PM. The kids and workers mostly stay the whole time because of how much they love the place. The meal program has shown these kids the importance of being thankful. The chef there says, “I tell them, if you want something, you also have to give respect.”
The Kids Meal Program has proven that it does not need to be complex to teach kids about respect. The chef and helpers love doing what they do. The smiles on the kids’ faces are so bright; without the café, they would be devastated. It is more than just a place to get a meal. According to the chef, “It feels like one big happy family.”
Consider making a donation to the Kids Meal Program today to help keep this important work going during the year ahead!