This post is brought to you by Walmart’s Fight Hunger. Spark Change. campaign and The Motherhood. All opinions are my own. #FightHunger
I have two beautiful happy and healthy daughters. My oldest daughter is eight years old and loves school. She is on a competitive rock climbing team and is the SeaWorld guest kid blogger. She loves animals and cares very much about ocean conservation. Every morning she begins her day with a warm breakfast prepared by me in our kitchen. At school she has a warm lunch and afternoon snack. She comes home from science club or rock climbing practice and eats the dinner I’ve made for our family. Sometimes before bed she has a glass of milk and another snack. She goes to bed with a full tummy. She never wonders when her next meal will arrive. She never sits in her classroom thinking about food and unable to concentrate and learn. My youngest daughter just turned two. She loves hearing “dinner is ready,” and lights up when offered a snack. Her favorite vegetable is broccoli and she loves grapes after her nap. My daughters are not food insecure but more than 13 million American children are. Every child deserves the same chance to excel and these numbers are astonishing. The USDA reports that 42 million people in America struggle with hunger. This spring Walmart is helping provide 100 million meals on behalf of Feeding America’s member food banks across the country through the “Fight Hunger. Spark Change.” campaign with Discover card and five supplier partners: Campbell Soup Company, General Mills, Kellogg Company, the Kraft Heinz Company and PepsiCo. This campaign, our communities including you and I, and local food banks are making a difference. I recently spent time at my local food bank and learned how they are making a huge impact through donations and a wonderful program offering a second chance in life to community members facing hardships. The participants in the St. Mary’s Food Bank Community Kitchen Program are making a difference for children facing food insecurity while also receiving a culinary education and life skills to secure employment in the food service industry.
St. Mary’s is Arizona’s very first food bank and is celebrating 50 years serving our community. The food bank provides food and other forms of assistance to families and individuals in need. They operate with donations from businesses in the community, small and big like Walmart, the nation’s largest grocer.
What is the Community Kitchen?
The St. Mary’s Food Bank Community Kitchen is a 16 week program providing an education with all the necessary skills to be an asset to the food service industry upon completion. Participants apply voluntarily and must commit to the full program. Through the four months, students prepare meals for children facing food insecurity in after school programs. There are many breakfast and lunch in school programs but children facing food insecurity do not see another meal outside of school hours. Dinner at after school programs, provided by St. Mary’s Food Bank, help provide necessary nutrition to children that otherwise might not get dinner.
Each day students at the Community Kitchen work together to prepare the meals and guarantee they are sent to the appropriate after school programs.
There is no requirement of previous kitchen experience to participate in the Community Kitchen program. A dedicated recruiter is committed to working with each individual to determine the best employment opportunities for continued success after graduation. Unlike many other public services, each application is evaluated individually with a criteria based on needs and potential. Through the 16 week program participants learn about the food service industry including food preparation, how to work in the kitchen with a team, social skills and so much more. Participants’ needs vary and the staff at St. Mary’s Food Bank helps address those to provide the second chance in life we all deserve.
While visiting the food bank, I had the opportunity to meet two current students, Kelly and Anna, to learn about their personal stories and what brought them to St. Mary’s Food Bank Community Kitchen.
Kelly is tall with a firm hand shake. His kind voice and comfortable laugh are intriguing and had me wondering about the life challenges that had brought Kelly to the Community Kitchen. He offered me a seat and began sharing his previous life story. Kelly and his wife were in the real estate industry together. Life was good until she passed away from cancer in 2010. Struggling to cope with the loss of his wife, Kelly leaned on substance abuse and consequently was incarcerated. The devastating loss of the life he shared with his wife lead him to the Community Kitchen. He smiled as he told me he always enjoyed cooking and was excited for his first day of the program several months ago. He found so much more than a culinary school, he had found a support system. He has learned invaluable skills including budgeting and when I asked the most interesting skill he had learned this week, he shared that he could now take apart and rebuild a commercial dishwasher. He has big dreams and with the help of the Community Kitchen feels confident to pursue them.
Anna introduced herself quietly and shared she is emotional talking about her previous life. She said she is emotional because for the first time she is enjoying expressing her feelings. Anna wears the Community Kitchen red jacket, an honor given to students demonstrating high leadership skills. A domestic violence survivor, it wasn’t until the loss of a child that Anna turned to substance abuse and found herself incarcerated. Coming home she struggled finding employment but vowed to never return to prison. The loss of another child led Anna back to incarceration and during this time she learned about the Community Kitchen. She explained although she was admitted to the program her deep insecurities made her unsure she would succeed. “What if everyone is smarter than me?” Everyday spent in the Community Kitchen has helped transform Anna into a confident leader. She has already been offered a part time work position while attending the program. She no longer wonders if she will succeed and now stands tall beaming with confidence as graduation is approaching.
Both Kelly and Anna are a reminder that we all deserve a second chance in life. They are helping make a difference for hungry children while also finding new beginnings at St. Mary’s Food Bank.
The Community Kitchen does not compensate participants with money. However, they do earn access to the rewards pantry, a room also known as “the Walmart” at the food bank.
How can you help?
Walmart is committed to providing meals to those in need and helping ensure that every family has access to affordable, nutritious and sustainably-grown food. The commitment includes a goal of providing four billion meals to those in need by 2020. You can help Walmart and your local community fight hunger now through May 15, 2017 with “Fight Hunger. Spark Change.”.
Share on social media
Meals will be given to Feeding America food banks when you share about the “Fight Hunger. Spark Change.” campaign on social media. Share photos on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter using #FightHunger and use the Walmart “Fight Hunger. Spark Change.” Snapchat filter nationwide April 21. Each time you share online Walmart will donate the equivalent of 10 meals ($0.90) to Feeding America on behalf of its member food banks up to $1.5 million. This is in addition to the initial $1.5 million donation Walmart made in support of Feeding America.
Purchase participating products at Walmart
For every purchase of specially marked products, whether in-store, pickup, or online, you will help secure one meal on behalf of Feeding America member food banks.
Donate at register and online
You can donate to Feeding America member food banks at checkout in any Walmart store, or donate now online.
New beginnings at St. Mary’s Food Bank Community Kitchen happen every 16 weeks with a new class of students seeking a second chance in life. Donations from local businesses and Walmart help make the Community Kitchen possible.
How will you join the “Fight Hunger. Spark Change.” campaign to make a difference in your community?
Learn more about St. Mary’s Food Bank Community Kitchen Program by connecting with Arizona’s first food bank on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter if you or someone you know would like to participate in the educational experience.