This post is the first in a series of blogs from our 2021 HungerCorps. Find new posts each week through August.
On my first day handing out meals for the Hunger Intervention Program, I didn’t know what to expect. Stacked on top of coolers of Uncrustables was a bin of coloring sheets, chalk, stickers, and more to get kids engaged, but my first site was pretty quiet. We handed out a good amount of meals, but kids didn’t really hang around.
Every day I go to Paramount Park, where families generally grab their meals and are on their way unless we have a special activity planned. My second location, Jackson Park, is a bit different. We’re there for less time and don’t hand out as many meals, but the kids there have welcomed us into their neighborhood with open arms. In the blink of an eye, a day will go from kids teaching us how to dance to eight-year-olds confiding in us about the people they’ve lost over the past year and the struggles they have had with online school.
Those kids show me how the world should be, even when there are fights over crayons and filterless brutal child honesty. I want to be more like the boy who grabs an extra balloon for his sister. Like the girl who greets everyone by name. Like the kids who, even though they don’t want us to leave, help us pack up our things so we can get back to the office on time.
At HIP, we are doing more than handing out meals. We are giving kids an excuse to get outside, make new friends, and provide a listening ear when they’re looking for support. It’s more than meals. It’s a community.
Mackenzie is one of our 2021 HungerCorps members, working primarily at our Paramount Park and Jackson Park sites. Mackenzie recently graduated from the University of Utah with a degree in communications and has a passion for helping her community. She loves hiking and all things food.