Kids Meal Program
Holy Cross Parish
For almost 15 years, the Kids Meal Program has nourished the bodies and souls of innumerable neighborhood youth. Together with the Greater Chicago Food Depository, the Holy Cross program serves seasonal, fresh food on weekdays from 3 to 5 PM. The program is open to any child in the neighborhood between the ages of 3 and 18, and all participants in the Holy Cross After-School Program at Casa Romero eat a healthy meal there Monday through Friday.
Fifteen percent of households in America are classified as food insecure. This stark reality imperils the developmental, educational, emotional, and social health of young people in these families. Insufficient nutrition effects brain development and patterns of behavior—often harming the parts of our brains than manage and moderate aggressive behavior.
The Kids Meal Program educates youth about nutrition while satisfying their hunger, helping to counteract the negative effects. Using educational materials geared toward youth, program leaders inform the children and teenagers about how balanced diets help their minds and bodies stay healthy and strong. They also send monthly bilingual newsletters home to show the participants’ parents what their kids are eating and learning. Learning about nutrition has made the young people more open to trying new kinds of healthy foods.
In the Kids Meal Program children also participate in food preparation. On Friday afternoons and school holidays, the head chef of the program gathers a crew of students from grades K–12 to help her cook. The kitchen time connects the kids to the food they eat.
The program is located in the Back of the Yards neighborhood of Chicago. The roughly 8,000 residents of the neighborhood earn an annual household income of about $32,000. Thirty-six percent of inhabitants live below the poverty line, and 23% receive supplemental nutrition benefits to help put food on the table.