Seven-year-old Isaiah is a tiny kid with big dreams. He loves playing soccer and basketball with his friends, and he hopes to become an athlete when he grows up. Though he’s got his eyes set on the future, this first-grader’s stomach can’t ignore the present situation.
Isaiah is shy when he meets new people, but when asked what is his favorite thing about the volunteer-run YMCA after-school program at his Laurelwood housing complex, Isaiah had no hesitation. “Lunch,” he said. “On Tuesdays and Thursdays, we eat real food.”
When asked why he loves lunch, his response was, “Because my stomach hurts sometimes.”
Hunger pains are very real for many kids in the Laurelwood program. Like Isaiah, many of these children rely on the snacks provided by the YMCA to keep hunger at bay until dinner time. Except for some of these kids, dinner sometimes never comes.
“It’s hard to get food at home,” Isaiah said. His mom works long hours to provide for him. When she is at work, the first-grader is often left to fend for himself, making ramen noodles or macaroni for dinner.
Through a recent partnership with a University of Indianapolis food service provider, the YMCA was able to provide full meals to all Laurelwood students on Tuesday and Thursday evenings. Additionally, through donations and volunteer support, led to the establishment of a community garden last May. Planting the garden was Isaiah’s favorite memory of the YMCA after-school program.
“We planted carrots, tomatoes, and peppers,” he said. “And when they grow, we’ll eat them!”
Though the Y’s made small strides in combating hunger for the students in the Laurelwood program, it is their dream to eliminate food insecurity for all of their beloved students. They want to be able to provide healthy, nourishing options for kids like Isaiah, because no child should have to feel the pain of hunger. They should be able to lead full, healthy lives where full bellies is just the beginning.