Tippecanoe Valley students battle food insecurity with Martin's grant

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AKRON, Ind. (WNDU) Hungry children face a number of obstacles. They often struggle in school because they lack focus.

A Michiana school system is doing what they can to battle food insecurity with a special program called Viking Vittles.

The 6th grade classroom at Tippecanoe Valley Middle School in Akron, Indiana, looks more like a food pantry.

“We come in to class every day and there's always a different grocery on the side,” said Chesnee Miller, a 6th grader. “We're like, ‘What is it today?’ Today just happened to be bread.”

“At first when we first started doing this, the kids were like, ‘Mrs. Early, look at all this food back here!’ One day I had bananas all across there,” laughed Niki Early, 6th grade teacher

Early oversees the Viking Vittles program. It's an expansion to a popular program that a lot of schools use to send home snacks with kids in need.

“I had a student who just was not himself one day in class, so I pulled him out and asked them what was the matter and he said, ‘I'm just hungry, I can't focus,’” said Early “It just breaks my heart to just think of any of my students going hungry.”

Early says they provide more than snacks; this program provides a meal.

“We try to plan a meal and send it home every weekend,” explained Early. “Along with snacks and juices.”

It works with the help of donations, like Martin’s Super Markets’ $1,000 One School at a Time grant.

“We are serving approximately 31 students at this time,” said Early. “We started out with 6th grade students, and slowly we are adding 7th and 8th grade students as well.”

Early's young army of volunteers can earn community service hours by helping out.

“They're learning to help each other and look out for each other,” said Early.

“It will get bigger, it will help more families,” said Anahi Ramirez, a 6th grader. “That way there's even less kids with hunger.”

The generosity doesn't end there. There is a clothing drive that is organized a few days each semester. Students can pick out clothing for free.

If you want to nominate your school for a One School at a Time grant, just fill out an application online.

The winning school gets $1,000 from Martin’s Super Market, and a new winner is picked each month.

Schools only need to apply once, and you can do so by going to MichianaSchools.com.