The Need That Surrounds Us Connects Us

By Beth McKee, Guest Blogger

Photo by Angel Lalumondier

That headline may sound a little like Obi-Wan Kenobi talking about the Force, but really, there’s not that much difference. The Swamp Sistas community is most certainly a force and we are connected by the need that surrounds us. Each spring, the Swamp Sistas host multiple events celebrating music, food, art and friendship. The purpose behind these gatherings is the ‘doing of good deeds together’ and it all culminates with our Swamp Sistas La La at Orlando Fringe Fest, on Saturday, May 18. We love helping out in our Central Florida community, and having that mission makes us feel good about ourselves and each other.

What’s the mission?

Over the past few years, we’ve become aware of an urgent need in the fight against local childhood hunger, particularly over the summer months, when no school means no school breakfast or lunch. Without adequate nutrition, children struggle to learn, thrive and grow, much less enjoy a summer break, and it happens a lot more than any of us would care to admit. It’s hard to think about a child going hungry but it’s important to step out of our comfort zone and consider what so many are going through.

What’s for dinner?

That’s when many families sit at the table and enjoy a meal together, sharing details about their school, work or play day, but what if there is no table? What if there is not any food?  What if, for one reason or another, there are no parents present as daylight fades to darkness?  What if you have younger siblings who are hungry, too? It’s heartbreaking to consider how many children experience some version of this reality: One in five kids in Central Florida is at risk of going to bed hungry tonight.

Childhood Hunger in Central Florida is a real problem

I asked one of the Sistas, an educator in an impoverished community, to share a little about the struggle of childhood hunger. This woman has immense dedication to her students and to helping them beat the odds, stacked against them through no fault of their own, to grow up and lead happy, productive lives. I’m proud to know her and especially proud to call her my “Sista.” She humbly requested to remain anonymous, but if you attend one of our events, you’re very likely to meet her. She’s super enthusiastic and almost always in attendance with family and friends in tow. Here’s what she had to say about childhood hunger.

A few years ago, I accepted a position as Director of a low-income school in the Orlando area. I was a seasoned teacher and thought I had seen everything. I quickly knew I had a lot to learn.  The first week of school I noticed children were hungry upon arrival each morning and brought no lunch with them. One day at school, a student was throwing away an unwrapped sandwich in the trash just because he didn’t want it. Another student saw this and ran up to him and said, “STOP!  Are you throwing that sandwich away?  Can I have it? Dude, I’ve been hungry before.  Don’t ever just throw food away!

This story is true, and it happens every day here in Florida, where the childhood food insecurity rate is 28% and where food banks have been distributing food at disaster levels for the past 3 years.  We would all share the food we have with a hungry child but we may not know how to go about that.

How do we get food to hungry children?  

The Swamp Sistas partner with Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida and our La La Fund Drive benefits the Summer Food for Kids Program which prepares, packages and distributes nutritious meals and snacks, free of charge, to kids and teens ages 18 and under.  This past summer Second Harvest provided over 280,000 breakfasts, lunches and snacks to 118 sites in 6 counties, and we helped! Our 2018 La La fund drive provided over 130,000 of those meals, and we’re ready to do it again in 2019.

Anyone can help, anytime!

All of the 2019 La La Events are free to attend, we simply ask that folks toss whatever they can into the pot for the fund drive. We will also present our fundraising efforts online, making it super easy to make a difference anytime using your computer, pad or smartphone. We love giving our generous friends lots of opportunities to chip in, whether it’s with a financial contribution or by volunteering at the Food Bank with us at our Volunteer Jam on Wednesday, May 1st. It’s also very helpful when friends share our social media posts about the fund drive and corresponding events, so really, ANYONE can help, ANYTIME. Our tag is @swampsistas and Second Harvest’s is @feedhopenow.

Second Harvest does a tremendous job of getting nutritious food into kids’ bellies over the summer months and we love being a part of the ‘goodness.’ Wouldn’t you like to be a part of it, too? Visit www.swampsistas.com to check out the events and sign up for email updates so we can keep you posted. We would very much love to have you join our community.

Swamp Sistas La La at Fringe on May 18

We’ll announce the total amount raised at our Swamp Sistas La La Music and Art Fest in Loch Haven Park (3-11pm). Join us for a great time and throw a little something in the pot to help feed some kids this summer.

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