Here he was, a former professional athlete smiling and laughing with kids and shaking hands and taking pictures with parents in a school parking lot under the blistering summer sun.

But Jason Avant couldn’t help but feel he was walking in their shoes. Because, not all that long ago, he and his parents were.

The former NFL wide receiver, noted for his time with the Philadelphia Eagles, attended the Delaware Summer Meals Kickoff event at Eisenberg Elementary School in New Castle, Delaware on behalf of the American Dairy Association North East, the Eagles and the NFL’s Fuel Up to Play 60 program. While there, he reminisced about his time taking part in the Summer Meals program growing up on the South Side of Chicago.

Summer Meals is a free program that provides healthy breakfasts and lunches to children under 18 throughout the country.

“I’m just very grateful to be here and be a part of the Summer Meals movement, because I remember how important these meals were to me back when I was a kid on the South Side,” Avant said.

“People know about the South Side and how hard life can be there, so for us to have these healthy meals with dairy readily available was such a positive for us. Because there can be so many negatives for kids growing up, especially in inner cities. It’s up to us to look out for them and do what we can to relieve their burdens. And that’s what these Summer Meals help do.”

In his current role as an ambassador for the Eagles, Avant, who played 10 seasons in the NFL, has taken it upon himself to use his platform and promote Summer Meals. It’s a role he takes great pride in.

“It all means a lot to be out here and talk to kids about things like the importance of dairy and Summer Meals,” he said.

“We want to make sure people are aware of the initiatives and opportunities around them, and that’s what I’m working to do. It’s very important to me. I want to not only encourage, but also educate that things like Summer Meals are available and can make a difference.”

The athlete in Avant has a way of coming out at these types of events. On this particular day, he gathered with the kids and a football for a catch at the school’s field. He, of all people, knows how important a healthy meal with dairy is when it comes to physical activity for athletes of any age.

“I was telling the kids about all the benefits of milk and dairy how they helped in my career,” Avant said. “They helped me nourish properly and create strong bones, which is what I wanted to pass on to them!”