Joplin boys & Girls club provides summer meals
Twelve-year-old Samantha knows what it’s like to be hungry.
Since she was a young girl, Samantha has lived in 18 different foster homes. The family at her current home is kind and loving, but she experienced neglect and abuse at foster homes in the past.
“They neglected me because of their jobs and their other children,” she shared. “They would give their other children food but I wouldn’t get breakfast, lunch or dinner. I only had snacks at the daycare. So I would steal snacks at home in the night.”
Samantha’s foster parents scolded her for sneaking around the house when everyone else was sleeping.
“They put baby locks on the fridge and the cabinets, and I was worried I would starve,” she expressed.
When her daycare was forced to cut snacks out of its budget, she became even more worried about how she would eat.
Thankfully, in her current foster home, Samantha receives everything that she needs, and she gets along well with the two other teens that live there. After school and during the summer, she loves spending time with her friends at the Boys & Girls Club in Joplin.
“Being able to eat food here helps keep costs down at home during the summer,” Samantha said.
When school’s not in session, the club provides breakfast, lunch and afternoon snacks for children ages six to 18. During the school year, only dinner is served, as children are offered breakfast and lunch at school.
A large percentage of elementary school children spend time at the Boys & Girls Club, but many teens come by for activities and meals, too. Rhonda Gorham, executive director of the club, believes that pre-teen and teen hunger is often overlooked because teens are ashamed of their situations.
“They’re embarrassed about it and they don’t want to draw attention to themselves,” she said. “And I think people are very unaware of teen homelessness and teens who are couch surfing.”
In the Joplin area, more than 200 teens are classified as homeless. Without a place to call home, these teens may go without food. But thanks to places like Boys & Girls Club, they have a safe place to hang out with their friends and have a meal.
“Teens like to eat, so a lot of them are here for the two meals and snack they can get,” Rhonda expressed.
The Boys & Girls in Joplin—The Food Bank’s largest after-school and summer program partner—has worked with Ozarks Food Harvest since 1997. The Food Bank sponsors the club through a federally-funded program that allows it to receive a monetary reimbursement based on the number of meals served. During the summer, the Joplin Boys and Girls Club typically serves about 12,000 meals.
Ozarks Food Harvest also provides the site with Summer Sacks, which are given to kids who express that they don’t have enough food at home.
“Many families tell our cook they need some extra help, and we’re able to send home these bags,” said Rhonda. “It helps a lot of them with weekend food during the school year and summer.”
This summer, Samantha plans to keep spending time at The Boys and Girls Club, and she knows she’ll continue coming each day after school begins in the fall.
“The Boys & Girls Club is a great and safe place. They are caring, and they understand,” she shared.
Thank you for supporting Ozarks Food Harvest and its agencies. Your support helps give teens like Samantha hope for a hunger-free future.