Rudy is a seven year-old boy who lives in Greater Orlando. Like most kids his age, Rudy goes to school, tries to behave and to learn the things his teachers and parents have to show him about life. As a member of a low-income household, however, Rudy doesn’t always have access to the healthy fruits and vegetables his family struggles to afford. There are often enough calories to go around each week, but the nutritional value of the foods the family can afford aren’t always the best. Rudy told his teacher that sometimes he has trouble keeping his mind on what she’s saying, and that he sometimes gets distracted by a hungry feeling at school.
After school lets out each day, however, Rudy gets off the bus and goes to a local community center where he is enrolled at an afterschool program. He gets to play math and reading games, and other fun activities until his mother gets off work and can pick him up. Not long ago, when the staff at the center decided it was time to build a new playground, they chose several children to help out by providing input to the planning process. After attending an initial meeting at which the general concepts for the playground were explained, Rudy went home and pondered.
The very next day, the Center’s Director was surprised when the second-grade boy asked for a private word in her office. She relates that Rudy reached in his backpack and pulled out his own set of very detailed drawings, that were very carefully labeled with descriptions of each feature of the new playground. He was excited about the project, and wanted to share ‘his vision’ with her right away—even before the next meeting.
One of the most important parts of Rudy’s day takes place when he and the other children participate in Second Harvest Food Bank’s “Kids Café” program. With a re-heat kitchen on-site, the center receives the Food Bank’s deliveries of delicious, wholesome food to serve the kids five days per week. The food comes from meals that were cooked and prepared, but never served, at local hotels, resorts, theme parks, and great restaurants like the Olive Garden, Red Lobster, Bahama Breeze, Longhorn Steaks, and others. To supplement the nutrition he gets at home, Rudy is able to get fairly regular servings of the healthy foods that his growing body and brain need so much.
Who knows? His ability to ‘think big’ on his playground design might well have been the result of some of the nutritious fuel he’s been receiving. And over time? Well, our community can always use a few more good architects, right? For at least 100,000 low-income children like Rudy in Central Florida, the future is truly and ‘if and only if’ proposition.
Only if…they can get the help they need around food and nutrition can they hope to have a chance to learn, and compete, and be successful in so many important ways.