Food and Fun for Kids at The Salvation Army
Hunger is prevalent in our society. It affects families of all shapes, sizes and colors. It affects seniors. It affect adults. And, saddest of all, it affects children.
According to Chicago Community Trust, 49 percent of Humboldt Park households received food stamps, and 30 percent of the families visited food pantries or community meal programs. Despite all of this 46 percent of households were still considered food insecure, compared with the national rate of 13 percent.
To help combat childhood hunger, The Salvation Army’s Freedom Center in West Humboldt Park created an afternoon children’s meal program, providing a nutritious dinner for any child in need. Meals range from a chicken, to meatballs, to spaghetti, to pizza, to macaroni and cheese.
Siblings Donna and Jeremy* stop at the Freedom Center on their way home from school because their mother isn’t usually home when they get there. “She works until after we get home, and most of the time she doesn’t really feel like cooking. We’ll go down the street and get a bag of chips and juice if we’re hungry,” said Danielle.
After dinner, the children can participate in classes and activities such as music lessons, arts and crafts, group chat groups and open gym. Music is one of the most popular classes, offering lessons in brass, guitar and more. “Music is so much fun,” said Diana Rivero, 8. “It is just a part of the City of Chicago.”
“Sometimes this is the only ‘homemade’ meal our kids have,” said Major Nancy Powers, corps officer and administrator at The Salvation Army Freedom Center. “We’ll give these kids a good meal, but we try to also feed their soul.”
For children who are facing hardships in their communities and in their families, these programs provide an opportunity to be just a kid and to feel love.
“There have been several children who came to our programs very angry and closed off. But after a while, they start to realize we love them and want them to be happy,” said Maj. Powers. “And now they come through the doors with a big smile and run up to us for a hug. This is something that wasn’t even conceivable a few weeks ago!”