Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

Opinion

July 24, 2013

Help feed a student

Pastor Jeff Newton tells a story that causes one pause.

On a Sunday evening in 2006, Trinity United Methodist Church hosted a free dinner. Newton, a part-time pastor at Trinity and Cassville United Methodist Church, 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.

Newton asked whether the boy had breakfast. He said no.

The minister asked whether the boy had dinner Saturday. He said no.

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

Newton, executive director of Kokomo Urban Outreach, started a pilot program in May 2007 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 sixth year, Urban Outreach’s “buddy bags” program will begin delivering food this September 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. Urban Outreach hopes to add Northwestern Elementary by second semester.

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.

Only a couple of weeks ago, the Indiana Institute for Working Families said poverty rates have increased for Hoosier children, with almost 46 percent now living in low-income families. In May, the Indiana Chamber of Commerce said Indiana had the 12th lowest poverty rate in the nation in 2000, but that it dropped to the 34th lowest by 2011.

Last year, Urban Outreach distributed 900 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.

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