These meals make a difference

The COVID-19 pandemic has put libraries nationwide in uncharted territory. We miss our customers, we miss interacting with them, and we miss hosting programs that educate and inspire.

We've created this blog series, Stories from Before, chronicling the stories of customers who ♥ all the Library offers, be it Storytime or Summer Reading, Books By Mail, English Language Classes, and much more. We hope these uplifting stories can help us all get through these challenging times and think about a brighter future.

These meals make a difference: Local families are grateful for summer lunch

Ronnie’s voice is energetic and friendly. From the meeting room at Martha Cooper Library, he can be heard calling to the kids, “Come on in! Come and eat! We’ve got lunch for you!” Ronnie has worked for Tucson Unified School District for four years, and during the summer months he can be found at mobile sites, including six libraries, serving lunch to kids who may not otherwise have enough to eat.

Mano, a regular at Martha Cooper Library, sits at a table with her three girls and two boys. When she hears Ronnie, she says, “Mr. Ronnie is the best. We’re here every day. My kids love the Summer Reading program and game lounge. The meals are very helpful, the librarians are wonderful, and everyone is nice.

Today, the kids are having hot dogs, raisins, black beans, and ice-cold milk. 

A young boy runs past Ronnie with a hot dog. “Rodrigo’s favorite,” Ronnie says, and calls after him, “Hey, don’t forget your ketchup!” Rodrigo, age 8, exclaims, “There’s ketchup? YAY!

Michael brings his children Sebastian, age 9, and Arabella, age 5. He says he’s grateful for the nutritional meal. “Plus,” he says, “it’s great that we can get them out of the house. At the Library, they interact with other kids and read books.”

There are many others enjoying the meal. Cecilia lives around the corner from Martha Cooper Library. She and her grandkids, Gabriel and Alyanna, consider it their second home. Cecilia smiles, “On most days, when they wake up in the morning, they ask to come to the Library. They love coming to yoga, Saturday movies, and Read to a Dog.”

Tara Foxx-Lupo, Library manager, comes outside and Cecilia gives her a big hug. “We wouldn’t be the same without them. Every time we see Cecilia and the kids, we know it’s going to be a good day. She’s a very generous person. One time she brought us homemade enchiladas to thank us for being here.”

“Too many kids don’t have enough to eat,” Cecilia says. “These meals make a difference.”

Across the room, Edwin, age 3, looks up. Grinning widely, he wears a combination of ketchup and chocolate milk above his lip. His grandmother, Dong Bai, remarks, “He’s usually not a good eater, but today he ate the whole hot dog. That makes me happy.”

The meals are important to us. So is the library.” Dong says, “My English isn’t good, so we come here. It’s better for both of us. We both learn.”

On this day, Edwin is one of more than two dozen kids to enjoy the hot lunch. After finishing the meal, Dong takes Edwin’s hand and they head inside where they exchange hellos with staff before settling in with a book. With a full belly and a good read, Edwin has more than one reason to smile today.

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