[btx_image image_id=”2432″ link=”/” position=”overlapright” size=”full”][/btx_image]Ravens’ Brandon Williams visits Maryland Food Bank Summer Club: ‘I don’t want any kid to have to have that feeling’

By Katherine Fominykh | Read online at BaltimoreSun.com

Surrounded by tables filled with children eating yogurt parfaits and fruit cups with their friends, you could not wipe the smile off Brandon Williams’ face.

The Ravens defensive tackle surprised a room full of campers at the Shady Spring PAL Center on Tuesday morning as they were sitting down to eat breakfast provided by the Maryland Food Bank, their first of two free meals of the day.

Williams spoke with the children about how he, despite his size and status, was once exactly like them.

“When I was a kid, I opened up the refrigerator and nothing was in there,” he said.

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In his hometown of Kirkwood, Mo., outside of St. Louis, Williams, his older brother and single mother, Shelly Washington, lived under one roof.

“There was tough times,” he said. “Sometimes you’d have to go to a friend’s house to eat. It was tough, but my mom kept it together to do what she needed to do to get everything we wanted slash needed.”

A three-sport athlete in high school, Williams needed food even more than an average student, especially during the football season. Often, though, dinner would be his only meal of the day.

Understanding his plight, friends’ families would try to help feed him. Coaches, under the guise of “team dinners,” would give meals to Williams when they knew times had gotten harder.

Sometimes, it still wasn’t enough. In his sophomore year, after transitioning to basketball for the winter season, Williams realized he had dropped 40 pounds.

“I had to make it work,” Williams said.

That’s why, after getting drafted by the Ravens in 2013, Williams quickly realized that he could use his stature for good and start giving back to the community. Along with the Maryland Food Bank partnership, Williams and his wife, Alyssa, adopted the Westport Boys and Girls Club, where he helps feed families at Thanksgiving and Christmas, as well.

“It was one of those things that just stuck,” he said. “Since I was a rookie, any time the Ravens needed someone to do something, help out or go into a school, I was always having a hand up. I always had a heart for helping, so it was easy.”

The Maryland Food Bank’s mission was put on full display Tuesday, as children walked over to the day’s server, director of youth programs Zanika Ghee, to accept their plate of yogurt, granola, fruit and a bottle of milk.

“I think [Williams is] an inspiration to the kids,” said Maryland Food Bank’s president and CEO Carmen Del Guercio. “We want to promote good eating habits and getting outdoors and play, so to have someone who can demonstrate what a kid can grow up to be is important to see that role model.”

Over the course of the summer, Robinson and his staff will serve approximately 100,000 meals — breakfast and lunch — for 40 to 50 kids a day. Adhering to USDA guidelines, the food will be split into the federally recommended portions of fruits, vegetables, proteins and so on, but with local items.

“The great thing is that we get the kids out of their comfort zone. The kids would love a hot dog, Royal Farms chicken tenders and fries,” said Manny Robinson, executive chef and director of food service and education for the food bank.

Rather than a simple, ballgame-style hot dog, for instance, Robinson serves the children a turkey corn dog breaded in wheat with a homemade coleslaw for lunch.

To Williams, seeing children have nutritious and consistent food sitting before them was like breaking the hunger cycle he had been stuck in in his youth.

“I don’t want any kid to have to have that feeling,” he said.