Summer Plans a Chore for Many Families

roadtripWhen I consider all the items to check off the list to plan a summer vacation, it is daunting. So many questions and details! Do I stop the newspapers and mail or have someone pick it up? Do I let the yard grow or have someone else mow it? What about watering the flowers and plants? We can’t take our 2 big dogs, so do we board them, have someone come by and feed them, ask a relative to keep them? Would it be better to have someone house sit to handle all this or rely on a good neighbor? What about the perishable food we have, keep or toss or give it away? The special arrangements might not work out as planned and we could come home to a real mess. What about the expense of the trip? Are we sure we have budgeted the right amount?

The questions on making plans for the summer would be very different for me if I had been depending on the free and reduced lunch program and the breakfast program at school for my kids to eat.

I probably would not be stressing over the details of a paid vacation trip to a nice location with my family. I would be looking at the upcoming months of June and July with real dread, because I may have limited or no easy options to provide a meal, let alone 2 meals for kids who will probably be at home all day. Who will I get to watch my kids when I need to go to work? The neighbor, a relative? I can’t afford to pay someone. Are they old enough to stay by themselves yet? Can I trust them? I can’t wait for August so they can go back to school, but then the school fees can really push us further behind.

The summer food programs that more and more schools are beginning to offer can be a significant stress reliever to many families.

A meal is provided and some schools have implemented some programming along with it. Transportation can be a real barrier for the child to get to the food. The coordinated effort between Muncie community centers is making headway by getting kids transported to and from South Side Middle School. Other schools in several counties are coming up with versions of their own to address the stark reality of hunger for thousands of kids in each county we serve. We believe that the feeding program belongs in the schools and getting partners around the table who can assist with a piece of the action is the key. These summer feeding program food costs are reimbursed by the Indiana Department of Education to the schools if they register in the program.

There have been many attempts over the years to reach the kids who need this assistance, but it usually results in a few hundred kids when the need is in the thousands. We need to discuss ways to coordinate transportation and programming that will get the kids to the food and provide a meaningful, structured outlet when options at home are few to non-existent.

It makes me think about how I am going to care for my lawn while I’m away is nonsense.


Written by Tim Kean

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Child Hunger Programs are Top Priority

appleAs we finished our Strategic Plan update in 2015, we challenged ourselves to examine what we have been doing programmatically for many years. We have been a provider of food to about 110 agencies in 8 counties. We also have a direct distribution to clients called the Tailgate Program that we execute in all 8 counties. Both of these are distributing food in a generalized sort of way by basically supplying food to whoever shows up. They both help struggling people but the question is could we be more targeted to “move the needle”?

We have decided to begin 2016 with a prioritization plan for our food resources and staff commitment. Our top priority going forward will be focused on Child Hunger Programs. We have some small but impactful programs with Child Hunger that we are ramping up substantially in 2016. Over the last year or two we have been engaged with Sutton Elementary in Muncie, St. Mary’s School in Anderson, Elwood Elementary in Elwood and Westlawn Elementary in Portland with distributing food to kids. We also partner with Turning Point –Food 4 Kids in Henry County and Reach Ministry – Food 4 Kids in Delaware County and First United Methodist in Anderson. As of a month ago we have been in dialogue with Southside Middle School in Muncie and have formed a partnership with the school staff and Fairlawn Church of Christ to operate a School Food Pantry in Southside.

We have been in dialogue with several school superintendents in Randolph, Delaware and Madison Counties to discuss forming partnerships with each school in the district. We also discussed jointly working to locate partners like churches, businesses or organizations who will engage in this effort with us and the neighborhood school to form a team that will make an impact on struggling families with children attending the school. There are some great examples of how this is working by significantly addressing the food insecurity needs of the family. Attendance has risen dramatically at the evening meetings where parents and staff come together for conferences on the student’s engagement and parental involvement.

By providing these food resources 12 months a year, the families can continue to see school engagement as a positive experience.

Getting a significant amount of food distributed at these meetings can eliminate the need for parents to have to visit several food pantries to try to meet the gap they are trying to cover. All of us are focused on making sure hunger is not an issue for these kids so they can have a greater chance for a successful year in school and over the summer as well.

Let us know if you would like to help. You can learn more about donating or volunteering by clicking “get involved” in the menu above.



Written by Tim Kean

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Hungry Children = Hungry Families

Ask any teacher in almost any school if children are coming to school hungry. It’s almost always a yes.

childstudying2Then they can go on to tell you lots of stories about the kids and conversations they have with them. Many times it leads to some deep-felt emotion that bubbles up in the teacher, and then they have to stop talking. Some have started some very impressive outreach efforts and have reached out to find support from a church or friends who want to make a difference. I always find what they are doing to be very inspirational. I along with many of you have worked face to face with struggling people, and even when my spirit is occasionally challenged with questions about that adult, when a child is in tow, the questions are melted away and all that remains is that child and their face. Teachers see the face of child hunger 5 days week.

Yes, free and reduced breakfasts and lunches help, but the gap the families are facing are wider than what these important programs can cover.

Data from Feeding America’s annual Map the Meal Gap report indicates that the average person struggling with food insecurity has a gap of about 7 pounds of food per person per week even after the free and reduced schools are taken into account. This means a family of 4 needs an additional 28 pounds of food per week. To try to cover that gap, the family will need to navigate through several food pantries open different days and times to try and find the resources. That is the current system.

It needs to change.

Teachers, Principals and Superintendents also have some challenges getting parental involvement in school organized meetings with staff and other parents. If you grew up and didn’t do well in school, you may have several vivid memories from your childhood that school was a place to be avoided and communication was always negative. Maybe your parents had the same experience and opinion. When you are notified by the school that they would like to meet with you, it might be natural to assume the worst and want to avoid what you consider to be a probable confrontation – so you don’t go. The last thing you need to add to your seemingly endless struggles is to hear that your child is not doing well. Visions of your past experience are now showing up in your child.

spaghettiOur organization is in the process of establishing food distributions to families with kids at the school after hours. This can be accomplished through community partnerships of area churches, businesses school staff members, and Second Harvest. This team approach doesn’t place a heavy burden for finances or volunteers on any single team member. This looks much more like an adoption of the school, and filling a role with several others to positively impact families with children in that school. This year-round, once or twice a month food distribution will bring families to school for a positive interaction, sharing information and enough resources that will probably meet the family’s needs for at least 2 weeks – and maybe longer. The positive school engagement will begin to build dialogue between parents and staff that leads to encouragement for the child and better performance, partially because the child’s family isn’t hungry.

We have success stories already up and operating. We need churches and businesses/organizations to be open to a conversation on how they may find a way to participate, not carry the burden by themselves. The idea of seeing an entire school with no hungry children is not beyond our reach. It is much more dependent on your will to make it reality.

Do you want to see all children free from hunger? Let us know if we can talk with you. We need to do this.

Email our Child Hunger Coordinator, Sarah Ponto Rivera at


Written by Tim Kean

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How Much Will This Cost Me

sinkWe came home from church and had no water pressure. The pump was running and was hot to the touch, so I pulled the breaker and shut it off. When you decide to live in a rural location, things like this pop up from time to time. The last time was a couple of years ago. Some small pebbles and some grit had plugged the impeller on the pump. With some acceptable aggravation and about $300, the pump was repaired and things were back to normal the same day. This time it may not be that simple. Last time there was some discussion about digging up the yard and needing to pull the lines to correct a possible faulty screen at the bottom of the water line in the well. That exercise would have been very expensive.

A few days before Christmas is not when unannounced repairs should show up. We had the same problem occur almost 40 years ago in another home – 2 days before Christmas. The entire system was replaced, from the well to the water heater. It took most of the next year for our family of six to recover from that surprise. Our food budget was $40 a week before the expense and probably a little less after it. You could get a few more groceries back then for $40 than you can now, but every dollar mattered. That was also about the point in our lives when I was buying and selling vehicles as fast as I could turn the titles to try and make a few extra bucks. I would buy a car for $400-$500, clean it up as best I could, and try to sell it for $600-$700. My family used to laugh whenever we pulled into their driveway because they wanted to see what I was driving each time. I had bought and sold some that they never had a chance to see, so it was a running joke in the family. If I could make $150-$200, that would put food on the table for a month. My point is, I had to be willing to do what I had to so things might change and circumstances might improve.

Unlike the old westerns, the cavalry wasn’t going to ride over the hill and save us.

Living from paycheck to paycheck or less is a reality for thousands of families in this county. You probably know people who are in this circumstance, or you may be one of those people. This cycle looks to have little hope in changing unless better job prospects through education and training come into play. After that happens, is relocation required to find that better more sustainable opportunity or is it here?

I believe most people are willing to help others who are trying to help themselves, but certainly more could be done by both parties. We are a very generous people, but also very spoiled. Living beyond our means has been an occasional pitfall for almost everyone, including me. When we won’t reduce our wants closer to our needs, the idea of helping someone else seems too far from our grasp. Likewise, when we work using one hand while the other is extended to ask for help, we might not need as much help if we used them both. Immediate assistance for immediate circumstances clearly must be met, even if prioritized like a triage unit. Longer term solutions must be developed for self-sustainability or the line to the triage unit will never get any shorter. I may need to find a longer term solution to my “plumbing” dilemma.


Written by Tim Kean

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Power Outages and Frozen Pipes

winterOur recent cold snap with high winds caused some significant power outages around East Central Indiana. You’re probably already aware of that. You may also know someone that was affected – or maybe it was you. We live on a county road in rural Madison County and it is fairly common that we lose power with high winds. Losing power with an all-electric home can cause some major disruptions if we aren’t careful. Loss of power means no heat, water and lights. It happened recently to us and luckily didn’t last but a few hours.

A couple of days later as the temperature dropped to single digits, we had a frozen water pipe. I managed to catch it quick enough to get some heat applied and avoid a big issue, but what happens when you’re not so lucky? A frozen water pipe undetected overnight can cause some serious damage and can be very costly, beyond the plumbing bill. If I had to call in to work last week and tell the supervisor that I wasn’t able to come in because I didn’t have power, they might understand. If I had called in sick for 2 days 2 weeks ago, they might understand. If I had a sick child 3 weeks ago and had to stay home for a day, they might understand that. So now my frozen water pipe dilemma could have some very serious long term impact on my ability to pay my bills unless I have again caught my supervisor in an understanding mood. All of these circumstances are real and probably out of my control, but this doesn’t always have a happy ending.

Many people who are struggling have multiple challenges they wrestle with just to get through a normal day.

Financial struggles many times mean transportation issues, health issues, child care issues and food insecurity issues. It can be like a spin on the roulette wheel to see if you can land on a safe number that day or your number just came up for some unexpected life event that causes a train derailment, taking months or years for recovery. There are many people who appear to be self-sufficient and living paycheck to paycheck. Everything is just ok, not great, and then the washer goes out, the car battery quits and someone in the house just got the flu. Next week the rent is due, and utilities are the week after that.

I’ve come from a long background in the for-profit world. Absentee employees make for a long day when labor is tight, and labor is always tight. How can we expect to meet the demands of the job when employees aren’t dependable? I’ve come to realize over the years that many of the things that get in the way for others also get in the way for me as well. I also know that the lower someone is on the economic totem pole, the more challenging a $75 repair can be. It’s hard to appreciate how something like air temperature and some short term gusting wind can be a potential life changing event for someone, unless you’ve been there.

I hope the temperatures might return back to being moderate for this time of year. It might be less expensive for a business and it will ease some real pressure being felt by average people trying to live without a train wreck around the next corner.


Written By Tim Kean

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Help for Today Hope for Tomorrow

We have finished our Strategic Plan for 2016 – 2019. Our board has set us on a course with an updated Vision Statement and Mission Statement.

The Vision Statement – Our vision is to see people in East Central Indiana free from hunger and self-sufficient.

The Mission Statement –Our Mission is to provide help for today by feeding the hungry and hope for tomorrow by addressing the causes of food insecurity and empowering people toward self-sufficiency.

This can be summarized as providing Help for Today and Hope for Tomorrow for our 8-county service area. Help for Today means that we need to continue to evaluate and sharpen our existing programs, and look at the creation of new programs and collaborations where there are gaps in the delivery of service. The distribution system we operate with has some inherent challenges. Dedicated groups of independent operators (food pantries) can bring much into this discussion as we examine national best practices across the Feeding America network. The idea of continuing to do things the same way and expecting different/better results as we consider what results we need will be interesting dialogue. The current model we use in food pantries and our Tailgate Distribution (mobile food pantry) is kind of a generalized approach. We provide food assistance through these programs to basically anyone who shows up at the distribution time. Both these approaches have been used for decades so we must ask ourselves, are we hitting the mark that we intend to hit? Can we use best practices to help us and our agency partners to come closer to a more impactful outcome?

Hope for Tomorrow will lead us to look at the root causes of food insecurity. We will need to collaborate with an extensive group of partners to “shorten the line” of those in need. Advocacy, education and facilitation of discussions and activities will all play a role in moving forward, but this is not enough. If we engage in empowering people toward self-sufficiency, we will need to line up some programmatic opportunities for struggling people to find their way out of the struggle. This doesn’t necessarily mean that we need to develop new programming, but look at opportunities to engage with others who are tackling this topic so together we can leverage assets and energy to be more impactful. Can we align so that 1+1 = 2 ½?

If we can make progress to “shorten the line” of need, won’t that relieve some pressure on challenges in help for today?

We have to aim at the bulls-eye, not the general vicinity of the target. Using a generalized approach of how we disperse all our resources will not move the needle. Fighting a battle on all fronts just exhausts everyone and depletes precious resources much too rapidly. We will consider some prioritization on how we go forward with programming. Our top priority for our programming will be addressing Childhood Hunger. Our second level of priority will be Seniors and The Disabled. Our third level will be Adults between 18 and 60 with no kids at home. Our new relationships/collaborations will get us closer to the vision of seeing people free from hunger and self-sufficient. There are approximately 75,000 people in 8 counties that need help for today and hope for tomorrow.

We are looking at 2016 with excitement. Join with us to make a difference in someone’s life.


Written by Tim Kean

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We are looking for partners to combat child hunger

Child Hunger Programs will be ramped up for us starting in 2016. We received a two-year grant from C&S Warehouse, a national food distribution company that operates in Yorktown in what used to be a Marsh Perishable Food warehouse, that will provide funding for a position to research, develop community partnerships and implement programs focused on food insecure children. We have just hired the staff person who will be our Child Hunger Coordinator. Development will begin to take shape shortly after the New Year as she ramps up her knowledge of food bank operations and dives deep into all the resources offered to us by Feeding America, our national affiliate.

We have some pretty alarming statistics in this country and in this region of the state that identify children who are missing at least some meals each week. Through the efforts of Map the Meal Gap, an annual study conducted through Feeding America by the Nielson Company and funded by Howard Buffet (a champion for hunger-related efforts and the son of billionaire, Warren Buffet), we are given details, by county, in every state in the union to help us understand the size of our target locally. For several years the national statistic has been that roughly 1 in every 4 of our children under age 18 are food insecure. That number is true here at the local level as well. Within our region of 8 counties in East Central Indiana, there are some local social service agencies who have data that suggest it is 1 in 3 children in their community. I value and acknowledge their findings as they may bring more attention to and spur greater effort toward addressing what will be done.

So that is the question, what will we do, now that we know?

We continue to see high percentages by school of children who qualify for free and reduced lunch programs and breakfast programs. In some individual schools, the number is above 90% of the students, and some school systems average over 70% in larger communities. The reality that is equally as staggering is the lack of access to meals when school is not in session. This includes summer break, fall break, holiday break, spring break and school closing due to weather. I probably have not listed all of them as some have other breaks on top of these. We have a few local partners in some communities that have taken on programs to provide a grade level or whole school with a grocery bag of food for the weekend once a month or sometimes more often, depending on the level of engagement by the donor.

One of our strengths as a regional food bank is that a high percentage (28%) of all food we distribute is fresh produce. We are very accustomed to receiving and distributing produce on a very large scale. This should help us as we begin to forge new relationships in all the communities we serve to focus on the worst circumstance in our community: children that are hungry.


Written by Tim Kean

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Food Desert Map can change

A recent article in the Star Press talked about the “food desert” that exists on the Northeast side of Muncie. The compelling story described the circumstances of residents looking for food access and the distance they needed to travel to find it. This is a real circumstance for residents who live on the Northeast side, but also the Southeast side and the Southwest side of Muncie as well. Through the efforts of Brandon Longenberger, a Ball State Summer Intern for Second Harvest and Samantha Martin, our Director of Programs, we now have mapping that identifies “food deserts” of Muncie, Delaware County and all other 7 counties that we serve using poverty census data and food access points of either grocery stores or current food pantries. We have been sharing this information for a few months with several community leaders and it has generated very fruitful conversations.


Seeing the picture of food insecurity in these food deserts begs the question, what are we going to do about it? I say we, because it will require action from several interested individuals and organizations. One of the first steps is to see a group of churches who reside in the food desert area who will come together and form a leadership team, who are committed to opening a food pantry in the neighborhood. This idea relieves the burden of the entire operation being staffed, housed and financially supported by one church. As changes in leadership, interest and resources occur over time within a church, the mission of feeding hungry neighbors can begin to fade or even disappear, with new initiatives taking priority. The sustainability of multi-church operations can absorb adjustments and grow beyond providing temporary supplemental food. With a pool of talent and direction, the group can engage the neighborhood for input into what the neighborhood sees additional programming needs may be to enable people to begin to lift themselves out of the circumstances they are facing. Partner organizations can then be engaged to come along side and help address some of these needs without adding to the load that the leadership is carrying. There are some great examples of groups of churches working together in other communities like Alexandria and Winchester that support 1 pantry and have done so successfully for years.

We are working with a model that shows if 8 churches pooled $50 a week and distributed 40 pounds of food to 150 people a week, they would operate the largest food pantry in Delaware County.

The location would be determined by the leadership team of churches. Here is where some community partnerships can come into play. Locating the pantry in an empty existing building somewhere close to the neighborhood would be the target. Hopefully, the building would have at least 25 parking spaces or enough parking for serving 100 people a day. It may take a building owner who would like a charitable donation deduction to make this work, but there are lots of locations that seem to be candidates out there at the moment.

This concept has a multi-year phased-in approach with the development of what has been termed as a “Hunger Free Zone”. On the program side, there is the element of a community garden, training needs identified by the residents, potential for a micro-loan program, a periodic schedule for a food truck loaded with food people can buy just to name a few. As the operation continues to attract more support and with greater access to food, a “store front’ concept could be introduced offering a limited assortment of high demand items priced on par with the area market low cost providers. With this added dimension there is potential for some job creation in the operation.

Food deserts only exist because we allow them by standing on the sidelines waiting for someone to do something. The map for 2016 can look different if we start now.

Written by Tim Kean

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Walking with someone is different than supporting them

I have always been a pretty independent person, even when I have a need. Trying a complete a project without the right kind of tools to use can add a lot of frustration, but may not prevent it from getting finished. I once dug 63 holes with a shovel in the middle of summer because I didn’t have the money to rent an auger. It was painful, but I got it done. I really don’t like to borrow tools from someone else either. I struggle asking for help. I will loan tools to people but I would rather help with the project. I think working with someone on their project can be rewarding and is more helpful to that person. We can usually learn together.

A few years ago, I was trained as a Stephen Minister. As a Stephen Minister, I was meeting with someone weekly and discussing what is going on in that person’s life. The care receiver may be in the last stages of life, or they may be much younger and need a confidential relationship outside of their family. In the training, we were exposed to the idea of not taking on the person’s issues as an attempt to help them, but to be a good listener, giving them an outlet free from judgment. As I would walk alongside that person, they could hear themselves and sometimes might find answers they were looking for without intending to look for any. I suppose on some level the meeting might only be an hour, to say what you think or wish you could say to others too close for comfort. My viewpoint of people struggling with lots of interrelated issues mainly brought on by financial challenges continues to evolve over time. Food insecurity, lack of transportation, child care, educational limitations and poor personal choices along with a few others I didn’t mention kind of swirl around you, if you are unable to earn enough money to end the cycle of poverty.

The answer isn’t always giving someone what they lack, but may be in walking with them to help them discover what they can do for themselves. You and I are both able to accomplish more than we think we can.

Sometimes we just need to hear that enough times that we might begin to believe it. If I don’t like where I am or where I seem to be heading, I may need to change the road I’m on to get to a different place. It also helps to know someone who has a map or can even lend you their GPS while they walk with you.

The reality is that Second Harvest Food Bank will not end food insecurity by reaching some number of pounds of distributed food. We perform a very valuable service in 8 counties that must be accompanied by sustainable personal change. For some, complete independence is not feasible, for others, being less dependent has to be a high priority.


Written by Tim Kean

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Federal summer recess means talking about the fall session

Child Nutrition Re-authorization will be voted on this fall by Congress. Among the list of programs this bill covers are the School Breakfast and School Lunch Programs, After-school Meal Program now offered in 14 states and Summer Food. It’s hard to argue that we will not be as successful if our children aren’t learning as they should because they are hungry, and cannot achieve because they aren’t healthy. The Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) provides federal funds to after-school programs to serve meals to children age 18 and under during the school year. The meals can be served at any time during the after-school program, either at a traditional dinner time or immediately when the students arrive after school depending on the length of the after-school program. An after-school snack can also be served in addition to the meal.

We have reached out to 6th District Congressman Luke Messer to stop by Second Harvest Food Bank while home this summer to tour, volunteer and discuss some of the priorities for struggling people from his district. He has agreed to come on August 4th after hosting a Job Fair at Ball State University the same day. The CNR legislation is one of the topics we will want to discuss. The opportunity to discuss any topic face to face with a federal legislator is a rare occurrence, but one that should always be pursued.

Advocacy is one of the 3 areas of focus for our organization, along with Food Distribution and Education. I had an opportunity to meet face to face with 5th District Congresswoman Susan Brooks about a year ago in Anderson and Senator Joe Donnelly a year before that. Earlier this year, all of the Feeding America food banks in the state went to the Indiana Statehouse representing Feeding Indiana’s Hungry, our state food bank association to meet with as many legislators as we could corral to discuss funding from the state to buy food that would not make it to market at a reduced cost from Indiana farmers. We were asking for an increase in the state budget that would put us on par with the Kentucky state budget and food banks. The increase didn’t happen, but we aren’t done talking about it either.

I can recall the faces of many hungry children, some were classmates, some were shopping with parents in the grocery store where I worked and some were in line at the food pantry where I volunteered. All had sad eyes, always sad eyes. I think over time a childhood of sad eyes can give way to frustrated, angry or desperate eyes of adulthood. When a child has a full belly there is a change in personality. A special needs teacher who was getting some snacks from us for her class described the change in behavior she saw in as little as 15 minutes. Someone who was disruptive or lethargic became someone who listened and learned.

Written by Tim Kean

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