By Denise Peterson
Special to The CS&T

PHILADELPHIA – Nutritional Development Services and the summer program at St. Martin de Porres Interparochial School in Germantown sponsored a Peace Day celebration Aug. 11. Children in the summer camp, ages 5 to 14, participated in the annual program to promote peace in their community.

During the celebration, campers recited poems, sang and reflected on how they are a piece of the “peace puzzle.” Anne Ayella, assistant director of community relations for Nutritional Development Services, hosted the event, which featured campers from each grade pledging to respect themselves and others and listen to one another.

At the beginning of camp, each camper signed a “peace pledge.” Honor Blackburn-Grant, director of St. Martin de Porres’ after school and summer programs, and her staff helped the children who attended the programs reflect on positive things like nonviolence, anti-bullying and respect. “We try to have the children reflect on these pledges not just through the summer, but through the fall with our after school program, to teach nonviolence and how they can be the best they can be,” Blackburn-Grant said.

Peace and nutrition were themes throughout the summer camp at St. Martin de Porres, which was chosen as a focal site for this year’s celebration. Terrance Williams, a third-grader at St. Martin de Porres, said, “I learned that you need to stop drinking Hugs (artificially flavored fruit drinks), eat healthy foods like apples and green beans and drink a lot of water.”

During the camp, students also learned how to salsa dance and use computers.

Nutritional Development Services is a sponsor of the federally funded Summer Meal program. This summer, they served more than 500 sites, where children received lunch and a choice of breakfast or a snack throughout the course of their summer program.

Archdiocesan Nutritional Development Services provides not only nutrition, but strives for a healthy school environment that promotes the education of the whole child. NDS distributed “peace packets” to the sites where they provided meals, encouraged summer camps to use the packets to pray for peace during lunch-time meals and even sponsored an essay contest.

At St. Martin de Porres, Blackburn-Grant can see the far-reaching benefits of a program like this. “A lot of our children live in this community. They take what they learn home and their parents see that they are courteous and kind, and these values are strengthened in their families and in our community.”

Denise Peterson is a member of the social justice committee of the archdiocesan Office for Hispanic Catholics.