LAFAYETTE-WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – A grass roots effort has woven a network that’s making a difference in the lives of about 650 Lafayette-West Lafayette children. Two United Methodist churches are contributing to the effort.
Together First United Methodist and Christ United Methodist are providing backpacks full of nutritious food to 75 of those children every Friday. While the children receive free lunches and even breakfast every school day, there is no guarantee for dinner. Worse, it was a long time from lunch on Friday to Monday morning.
The backpacks help bridge the gap. The problem is substantial; 65 percent of the elementary school children in the Lafayette School Corp. qualify for free or reduced-priced lunches. In the Tippecanoe County school system, many of the schools are at 50 percent.
“That’s about 4,073 little children who could be at risk of hunger,” said Jeanne Norberg, a coordinator at First UMC. “It’s stunning. When people hear, they are eager to help.”
The school counselor identifies children most in need. The churches collect food, honorariums and donations from their memberships, other churches and area service organizations. The churches’ children help, too, collecting food for Vacation Bible School and trick-or-treating for food donations. Some have even asked for food rather than gifts for their birthday parties.
Thanks to the donated products, the churches only need to spend about $3 per child each week to buy kid-friendly food at cost, often times for pennies on the dollar, from Food Finders Food Bank.
Congregations work in teams to buy the food, then collect, stock and pack it in the basement of First Church, deliver the bags to the school on Thursdays and retrieve them early in the week.
Food for a typical backpack often include items such peanut butter, jelly, stew, chunky soup, spaghetti and sauce, shelf-safe milk, tuna, Bisquick, syrup, hot chocolate mix, canned fruit and vegetables, granola bars, cereal or oatmeal. The children also appreciate hygiene products such as Kleenex and toilet paper, which can’t be purchased with food stamps.
Teachers and principals have enthusiastically welcomed the program. Children who are hungry can’t learn. Hungry children also disrupt others and prevent them from learning as well. The program also has a side benefit. It’s helping to build community within and between the congregations.
For more information about this program, contact Jeanne Norberg at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 765-491-1460.