My name is Elizabeth and I’m the VISTA site supervisor for Lake City Court Apartments. Having grown up in the Lake City area, Lake City Court is a location that I was always familiar with, but knew very little about. Serving summer meals here daily has provided me with the opportunity to get to know this community on a more personal basis, as well as to better understand the logistics of trying to meet the needs in food-insecure areas.
Personally, the best part of my experience with the Hunger Intervention Program has been getting to know the families who come to my site each day. While it took me a little while to remember every name, I was immediately struck by how open and welcoming the children were with me, and how willing they were to come hang out from the very start. Given the number of large families that live at Court and come to my site each day, I was unsure how to provide games and activities that would appeal to both the four year-olds and the 14 year-olds. While this has been a trial-and-error process throughout the summer, we did discover one activity that became an instant hit with everyone: gardening.
A wonderful part of Lake City Court is the community garden on the premise, with individual plots for many of the families who live there. HIP also has a small plot there, home to squash, mint, peas, and kale (among other things). Taking care of this plot has become a part of our daily routine that both the children and I look forward to. While I was initially skeptical of how popular weeding and watering would be, it has been so rewarding to see how enthusiastic the children are about the garden. The water hose provides some cool relief and entertainment on a hot day, but the ability to pick and eat green beans, tomatillos, and mint directly from the ground is equally as exciting to everyone. It’s also something that all the children can partake in, as the older kids love having the opportunity to educate the younger ones on proper watering techniques and delegate who gets to water what.
Overall, it has been such a joy to get to know the families that regularly frequent my site, as well as the new faces that occasionally drop by. Not only do I value the relationships I’ve built with the children and adults who come to the Lake City Court playground every day, but I’ve been able to see how many other community members are involved with HIP and Lake City Court. Each week, local librarians, artists, or volunteers come to provide the site with activities and resources, and are familiar faces to many of the children. This experience has allowed me to gain better insight into the issues affecting nearby communities, become involved with efforts to make food resources available to those who need them, and develop my interest in gardening alongside eager kids.