Kokomo area school corporations will recess for spring break when dismissal bells ring April 4. Students and staff won’t return until April 14.
Some children and their families will head south to enjoy warm weather after our especially brutal winter. Most will stay in town.
Statistics suggest too many of our children will be hungry for most of that week away from school. And they’re why in May 2007, Pastor Jeff Newton, executive director of Kokomo Urban Outreach, started a pilot program that provided bags of food for Elwood Haynes Elementary School students on free and reduced-priced lunches. The bags containing enough food for six meals were delivered on a Friday to the school.
It was a success. Now in its fifth year, Urban Outreach’s “buddy bags” program delivers food for students at Taylor Primary School and Elwood Haynes, Boulevard, Lafayette Park, Pettit Park, Eastern, Western and Howard elementaries at the end of each week. One bag includes such items as oatmeal, macaroni and cheese, tuna, a can of beef stew and two cans of soup. And because each bag is identical, siblings’ food can be used to supplement meals for the whole family.
Not every child receiving a buddy bag would’ve gone without food every weekend. But most live with “food insecurity” – a limited availability of food. In 2010, 24.5 percent of Howard County’s children lived in poverty, according to the 2012 release of the Howard County Health and Human Services Needs Assessment. Child poverty had grown 13.1 percent here since 2000, the report said.
And the percentage of Howard County children living in poverty appears to be climbing. Health rankings of Indiana counties, released Wednesday by the University of Wisconsin and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, put our percentage of child poverty at 27 percent — 5 points above the state average.
Last year, Urban Outreach distributed 950 buddy bags a week. You can help. For just $120 – $15 per month – you can provide a weekend of food for a child.
Please get involved. No one in Kokomo should be hungry.