Food, Fun & Friendship

Cassville YMCA- My mom likes to say that food is my love language. This is true and I love to cook food even more than I enjoy eating it. Hosting big gatherings is something of a hobby. There are few activities I love more than staying up all night tending to the smoker and getting ready for a big crowd of friends and family.

Food does much more than nourish our bodies. As humans we desire to climb Maslow’s pyramid and get to a place where we are free to pursue our personal happiness. Food is one of the few things we find at all levels and that grows and changes with us.

At the base of the pyramid, food is a basic need to keep calories in our body. It’s important that those calories come from good food, such as lean meats, veggies and fruit. The Cassville YMCA is partners with Ozarks Food Harvest in an effort to provide kids with a healthy snack every day after school and breakfast five days a week in the summer.

We strive to make sure that we are serving healthy meals and snacks because so many of our kids don’t have access to nutritious food at home and in some cases no food at all. One of our biggest surprises was that kid’s LOVED salad and it is now a weekly item on

our menu.

We also know that we can do more with food than fill bellies and we try to move up the pyramid to fulfill psychological needs as well. We always eat together, and we serve most of our meals family style. Eating together builds bonds and creates memories. Our little kitchen is where we start and end each day. We put all our devices aside, turn on some good jams and spend time together eating, talking and singing. We discuss our plans for the day, our weekends and home lives. This is also a time where we explore.

One of the unique things about working in a small rural town is that most of my kiddos have a very narrow experience with food. Most of them have the mindset that food is either fuel or candy and very few regularly experience family meal times with a wide variety of dishes, especially those not in the meat and potatoes category. So we created “Things You Ain’t Never Ate” days where we try foods from other cultures and parts of the USA. Sometimes these are strange, like rambutan or kumquat. Other times I was surprised by the fact that items that are staples at my house had never been heard of by a majority of our kids. Items like hummus, guacamole, and kiwi.

Almost all of our kids participate in these events and, like a new food or not, they are walking away with a new experience and are hopefully open to continually trying new things.

Climbing to the top of our pyramid we find that food is a way of self-fulfillment and happiness. Every summer our campers host a cookout and carnival for homeless families in Springfield. The YMCA provides the supplies but the campers do all of the organizing, planning, and work. We provide free lunch in the park where our campers serve hot dogs, chips, and drinks. They set up bounce houses, organize relay and sack races, and pass out candy to kids who have never had it before. At the end of the day when everyone is exhausted they ride the bus home sharing stories of the people they met and served.

At the Y we believe in Healthy Living, Youth Development and Social Responsibility. I believe that the way we feed our kids, not just what we feed them can embody all of these goals as well as pass them on to our future leaders.

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