Friday, August 19, 2011

A Taste of the Lunch Bus: Miami Park

At 2:10 p.m., Miami Park in Little Village is at its busiest: kids swinging or running around the playground, mothers sitting on benches, watching and chatting. However, they are all waiting for the arrival of the Greater Chicago Food Depository Lunch Bus. When we arrive, there is already a line formed with just enough space for me and my sign-in table at the front.

The ride to Miami Park is often interesting as the community has many practices I had never seen before. Households have yard sales all week long by hanging clothing on their picket fences and the streets are lined with umbrella-covered stands selling fruit and “chicharonnes.” A few weeks ago, when the weather was sweltering, we drove through fire hydrants spraying full blast. Almost all the children who came to the Lunch Bus were dripping.

Miami Park is one of our busiest sites with upwards of 65 kids served each day. In fact, on Tuesday August 16th, 112 children received lunches at this site. When I make the announcement that they must eat their meal at the park, I have to do it in both Spanish and English, as the majority of the population is Hispanic. The children all sign their own names, which is entertaining at times. “No, I can do it!” little ones often shout before a parent or sibling can write their name. The other children in line wait patiently as each makes his or her mark, and often ask me questions.

“What is the food today?”

“Como est├ís?”

“How many boxes do you have?”

“Como te llamas?”

This last question was posed by Andy, a 3-year-old who always seems to have just come from playing in a fire hydrant. At first I tell him my name is Allison, but he can’t seem to pronounce it. So I say instead that it is Alicia, and he grins widely. The next day as we round the corner all I hear is “Alicia! Hola Alicia!”

Allison Lantero is the City Route Lunch Bus intern at the Greater Chicago Food Depository. The Lunch Bus returned in June, expanding its city and South Suburban routes to include a total of 15 sites across Cook County. Throughout the summer months the program will distribute approximately 20,000 meals reimbursed by the Illinois Board of Education. With the help of Food Depository interns and volunteers, the Lunch Bus visits sites in underserved neighborhoods to deliver healthy food directly to children. The Food Depository identified priority areas for the Lunch Bus based on the Running on Empty study of child hunger, released in 2010.

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