South Bend, Ind. As you sit down to dinner with your family tonight, some food for thought. For a full half of kids living in Indiana, their main meal of the day is one provided by their schools free lunch program.
And as we find out Just Before Six, it's a number that sadly keeps on growing in the Hoosier state.
For many of us hunger is something we rarely think about, in fact we often have the opposite problem and eat when we are not hungry. But sadly that is not the case for a growing number of our youngest people in Indiana
“Nearly half of Indiana students now use the school meal programs and those are just the kids who sign up,” says the CEO of the Indiana Youth Institute Bill Stanczykiewicz. “We know there are eligible students who do not enroll.”
So if you include the kids who do not enroll because they are embarrassed or their parents are unaware, over half our kids are going hungry and the reason.
“This is a direct reflection of the state's growing poverty rate,” explains Bill.
In 2000, 10 percent of our kids were living in poverty and now it's up to 25 percent.
“First of all our manufacturing sector,” says Bill. “We can make more things with fewer people because of technology and even the people we hired are turning the wrenches, they're programming the computers and the robots. Second is the change in family structure, nearly half of Indiana kids are born into a single parent home.”
And while Stanczykiewicz is not advocating keeping a child on a need based program for the rest of their lives, he thinks it is important for parents to take advantage of what is available now in order to help their kids.
“It's so that today we do not have a hungry child, because that hungry child is going to find it that much more difficult to learn today in school,” says Bill.
While some kids persevere and become successful adults, the numbers show poor children are still five to six times more likely to live their lives in poverty as adults.
And while school lunch program is a great safety net, Stancsykiewicz says we can each take some personal responsibility as well.
“When we go to the grocery stores ourselves, can we get into the habit of buying that one extra bag of groceries each week or maybe even do it once a month that we can take to the local food pantry or food bank,” says Bill.
Jordan Ford has been a pillar in our community for helping kids. They partner with the Food Bank of Northern Indiana and each week their employees pack and distribute "Food for Kids Fun Packs" for 1,600 children at 25 schools. Fun packs that go home on a Friday so the children have food to eat over the weekend.
Stancsykiewicz reminds us there is no shortage of food.
“We have enough food to feed the world over, the issue is access to food,” says Bill. “All of us can really be part of the solution.”
Making sure our kids go to school with a full belly, ready to learn and break the cycle of poverty they just happened to be born into.
While your company does not have to get as involved as Jordan Ford has on a weekly basis, your company could have a food drive and just have your employees bring in food for the Food Bank.
To find out more ways you can help, you can call the Food Bank of Northern Indiana.