How many lunches do we serve during our six-week B-SAFE program? About 17,500.
How many volunteers from partner organizations--including nearly 50 partner churches, including two interfaith networks--plan, shop, chop, cook, plate and feed 500+ young people, 160 teen staffers, and all of our adult staff, too? About 300.
What’s for lunch? (a question asked approximately 1000 times a day by all those young people; they each ask twice): Tacos; meatball (and veggie “meatball”) subs; chicken, penne and broccoli; rice, beans and plantains; peppers and carrots and apples and yogurt, among many other tasty choices.
Some of the volunteers have matching aprons. Some have clever ways of keeping food hot, like keeping it in a cooler wrapped tight in tin foil. Some are volunteering with family members: mothers and daughters, aunts and nephews, siblings and cousins. In addition to all the food preparation, many of these volunteers also read with young participants during B-LIT time and help organize and lead B-SAFE field trips on Fridays in green spaces all over Greater Boston.
It sounds impressive, and it is. In our 20th year of B-SAFE, we are grateful for the support and hard work of our partner volunteers, for the time they spend preparing food and sharing it with our young people, for the money they raise for groceries and bus costs, and for the food itself, all donated, which allows us to spend our budget on staff, enrichment activities, and all the other expenses of a summer program for 800+ young people.
Lunch is a time for our young people to relax, to take a breather between the academic rotations of the morning and the enrichment activities and field trips of the afternoon. But it’s not really about the food, for them or for our volunteers. It’s about relationships and getting to know each other. One long-time volunteer gets a little teary talking about playing with a little girl in our program on the beach 13 summers ago and seeing the same girl last week all grown up as a proud CIT (Counselor-In-Training). The same volunteer told us the connections go beyond the young people, too. In her congregation’s 12 years of partnership with B-SAFE, they have had over 60 different members of the congregation participate, many returning summer after summer. Among their group of volunteers, people have connected and friendships have flourished, all because of B-SAFE.
That's the Power of Lunch.
By Jen Cusack, Director of Leadership Giving
Jen Cusack joined SSYP in 2016, after serving as the Executive Director of Wondermore, a small literacy non-profit that brings children's book authors and illustrators into Boston Public School classrooms for visits and writing workshops. Jen is a proud graduate of the Boston Public Schools and Brown University. As a parent of three sons with very different personalities and interests, she appreciates the wide range of programs and opportunities B-SAFE offers to our young people as they pursue their own individual passions.