Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

Opinion

September 16, 2009

Need for ‘buddy bags’ is great

Pastor Jeff Newton tells a story that causes one pause. After Deanna Ancil heard it, it broke her heart.

On a Sunday evening in 2006, Trinity United Methodist Church hosted a dinner. Newton, a part-time pastor at Trinity and Cassville United Methodist, watched as a young boy ate four hot dogs.

You must be hungry, Newton said to the boy. The boy said he hadn’t eaten lunch.

Did you have breakfast, Newton asked? The boy said no.

Did you have dinner Saturday, Newton asked? The boy said no.

After more questions, Newton learned the boy hadn’t eaten all weekend. His last meal was lunch on Friday at school.

“I don’t believe anyone in Kokomo should be hungry,” Ancil told us Tuesday. “There is no reason for hunger in this community.”

Newton, executive director of Kokomo Urban Outreach, started a pilot program that provided bags of food for children on free and reduced lunches at Elwood Haynes Elementary School in May 2007. The bags containing enough food for six meals were delivered on a Friday to the school.

It was a success. Now, in its second full year, Urban Outreach’s “buddy bags” program delivers food for 310 Elwood Haynes students 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. According to Urban Outreach, 11 percent of Kokomo households experienced food insecurity in Howard County in 2006. And 4 percent – 1,416 households – suffered chronic hunger three years ago.

With the U.S. in its 22nd month of recession – the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression – Ancil, president of Project E.A.T. (Everybody Ate Today), has seen more families and children suffer food insecurity.

Urban Outreach’s buddy bags program needs to be expanded to more schools. You can help. For just $11 per month, you can provide a weekend of food for a child.

Please get involved. No one in Kokomo should be hungry.

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