With anger raging over immigrant children being separated from their parents, we thought we’d share our experiences in trying to answer the question: How are those youngsters being fed?
We thought the answer could be pertinent to the heated debate, or even possibly a salve. Were mealtimes a comfort to the bewildered kids being packed into tent cities and repurposed department stores? Were the feeding operations seizing an opportunity to ensure the youngsters’ nutritional needs were being met, an aim that might have been shortchanged before families were split? Was there a tiny positive to a situation that’s broken the world’s heart?
We wish we could say yea or nay, but the silence choreographed to keep journalists out of the know was extended to us, too. The pertinent agencies of the federal government would not even reveal who’s doing the feeding—a surprising outcome, given how responsive those agencies usually are. A check of the most likely providers, including the big contract feeders, revealed nothing, either.
The closest we could come was stumbling across news reports that at least some of the centers were run by a nonprofit group called Southwest Key Programs, which is operating under contracts worth a reported $955 million.
But a visit to Southwest Key’s webpage found a notice the organization had shut down its site “due to the high volume of website traffic.” In its place was a temporary site that provided this statement:
"Southwest Key Programs does not support separating families at the border. For 30 years, our work in offering youth justice alternatives, immigrant children's shelters, and education has served to improve the lives of thousands of young people. We believe keeping families together is better for the children, parents and our communities, and we remain committed to providing compassionate care and reunification. For every child who has come through our shelter doors, we start on day one to reunite them with their parents or a family sponsor and to provide the kind of service that will help them thrive. This has been our priority for decades."
However, when we asked to speak to them about the facilities’ foodservice operations, here’s the response we received: “Thank you for contacting the HHS’ Administration for Children and Families. This is to acknowledge that we have received your inquiry.”
In our world, this is extraordinary. So is our reaction. We intend to focus even harder on learning how the children are being fed. But if you can help us in that quest, we’d welcome the information. Please drop me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo courtesy of iStock