The last 2 years we have seen an amazing transformation for our organization and I think we are just getting started. We are focused on not just the immediate food insecurity a family may be experiencing, but also the root causes that exist which may be keeping that family in a state of trauma. This more-holistic approach has led us develop short, medium and long term programming aimed at shortening the line of need. Feeding America tells us that the average gap a food-insecure person has is 7 pounds of food per week, so a family of 4 needs an additional 28 pounds of food after they have exhausted their cash, SNAP benefits or any other food assistance programs they may access. 7 pounds is equal to almost 6 meals per week. Depending on a family’s circumstance, it could be more than 6 meals or less and it does vary from week to week, sometimes day to day.
Our School Pantry Program (our long -term strategy) is organized to provide that every family is getting at least 7 pounds of food per person. This program is bringing families and the school staff together in relationship building. This relationship component is what will provide long term impact for a child. We are getting some great feedback from school staff and parents who are participating. Such as – “Relationships are critical for building academics because until a child knows that you care about them, they won’t necessarily work as hard as they could have. When they want to impress you, when they don’t want to disappoint you and they know that you care and they trust you, they’ll move mountains for you. So we’ve always held onto the relationship piece as being critical to student success and that’s gone a long way through this program.” – Melissa DeWitt, Grissom Elementary. This isn’t talking about a food distribution; it’s talking about a child positively responding by working harder in school when adults in their lives are working together.
Another prospective we received last week –
“A thriving family and a healthy family helps a child learn. It layers it. So, if we’re assisting the parents, once they come here and we’re assisting, it’s something to build on and help them meet their goals. Whether it’s the children or the parents, that’s what it’s really all about.”
“They come here and they’re so happy to see us not in the classroom, but being together helping their families. When you make a child happy by helping that home, it shows in their work. It shows in their attitude toward other students – they get so excited, you know ‘you’re here tonight!’ We’re stepping out of the norm, out of the classroom. We’re here to bring out community together and meet the needs.”
“It helps students thrive – when they feel they have a support it helps them thrive. It helps them not to feel so isolated, they feel like they can come to you if someone is bothering them.” Donna Sloss, Anderson Elementary. Again, it’s not about the food. It’s about relationships.
Schools, parents and children are seeing the benefits of this program. We now have 21 schools in 6 counties and will be adding more in 2018. Our funders are excited about this program, some have made multi-year commitments. We are looking for additional partners in funding and volunteering so let us know if you would like to make an impact in the lives of thousands of children and their families.
Tim Kean is the President and CEO of Second Harvest Food Bank of East Central Indiana. The Second Harvest Food Bank network of 115-member agencies, programs and 21 schools provide food assistance to more than 70,000 low-income people facing hunger in Blackford, Delaware, Grant, Henry, Jay, Madison, Randolph and Wabash Counties.