When students head home for spring break later this month, hunger was a big concern.
About 150 Franklin students are being sent home with a backpack of food every weekend, and a group of volunteers worried about keeping those same children fed for their one-week spring break.
Now, the group has raised enough money to send a box with 21 pounds of food to the students’ homes for spring break and has enough money to hopefully cover fall break, too.
Seven members of Leadership Johnson County, a 10-month program in which members complete a community service project, had a goal to raise $5,000 to feed children over spring break. The group raised $8,000 in a two-week social media campaign, and money is still coming in, organizer Jake Sappenfield said.
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“We’ve all been blown away by the whole project,” Sappenfield said.
The project is the first time a group has worked with Gleaners Food Bank of Indiana to feed children over a school break, communications manager Willie Matis said.
But the program is needed, and the volunteers’ work allowed the Indianapolis food bank, which serves 21 counties in the state, to be connected with local families in need, Matis said.
“Sometimes it’s hard for Gleaners to get plugged into those communities and really come up with the local solutions for those local hunger issues,” Matis said.
“We can’t thank Leadership Johnson County enough for coming up with this local solution to their local hunger issue.”
Volunteers packed up 250 boxes of food at Gleaners last week and will distribute the boxes in the few days before spring break.
The boxes, with 21 pounds of food including peanut butter, tuna and pasta, will go to families who told the schools they would struggle to feed their children over the nine-day break, Franklin schools director of operations Bill Doty said. And 100 boxes will be donated to the middle school food pantry, Doty said.
About 150 children who attend Franklin schools receive food to eat over the weekend through the backsacks program. The program was started about four years ago when Northwood Elementary School nurse Amanda Martin noticed students were complaining of stomach aches on Monday morning because they were hungry.
Families who are already part of the backsacks program will fill out a form provided by the schools to receive a box of food for spring break, Doty said. Parents can either pick up the boxes after school or some will be delivered by volunteers. Each school will set up a pickup time for parents to receive the boxes before spring break, since the food is too much to carry on the bus, Doty said.
The Leadership Johnson County group decided to build off the weekend program for spring break. They worked with Gleaners, which provides food to 10,000 children at 230 schools every Friday for their weekend backsack program.
For as little as $12, residents could feed a child for an entire week, Sappenfield said.
The group’s fundraiser ended two weeks ago, but Sappenfield still receives calls from residents and businesses that want to donate. The team originally planned to not ask businesses for donations, but multiple businesses asked if they could be a matching donor.
Donating money was the easiest way to get the most food for the Franklin students, Matis said. Since Gleaners has partnered with local grocery stores, pantries and other distribution centers, the organization can get a better deal on purchasing food in bulk. Also, Gleaners wants to make sure all of the food given is nutritious, is easy to prepare and does not require much heat or refrigeration since no family will have the same kitchen appliances, Matis said.
Gleaners was pleased with the success of the campaign, since it is hard for the organization to solve hunger issues at the local level, Matis said.
The remaining $3,000 not spent for spring break hopefully will be enough to keep the program going for fall break, Sappenfield said.
Here is a look at how much a group of volunteers was looking to raise in order to help feed children over spring break:
Total raised: $8,000
Pounds of food per box: 21
Number of Franklin children in the backsacks program: 148
To donate to the Hunger Heroes, write a check payable to Gleaners Food Bank of Indiana and send it to:
ATTN: Jake Sappenfield
P.O. Box 237
Franklin, IN 46131
In the memo line, write “Hunger Heroes.”