Farmers learn how to help ease students' hunger

7/9/2013 9:00 AM
By Associated Press

TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (AP) — Daily hunger is a harsh reality for many children living in the Wabash Valley.

On Monday, Vigo County farmers heard how they can make a difference for children who depend on backpacks of food from their schools so they can eat on weekends and vacations when food is not available at home, the Tribune-Star reported (http://bit.ly/185QnXx ).

Grain For Good is a program developed by the Wabash Valley Community Foundation to encourage farmers to designate a portion of their grain harvest to the foundation so the earnings can be used to purchase food for the backpack program.

School Superintendent Dan Tanoos said that what is called food insecurity is a reality for many children in the local school system. About 56 percent of the children are enrolled in the federal free and reduced-price lunch program.

About 89 percent of the children attending Deming Elementary live in poverty, Principal Susan Mardis told farmers, educators and others at the Grain for Good farm economy forecast and breakfast on Monday at the Wabash Valley Fairgrounds.

"It's heartbreaking," Mardis said, telling the story of a child who said his family has no food at home, so he appreciates the breakfast and lunch that he receives at school.

About 100 backpacks go home each weekend to needy children, she said, but because the demand is so high, the children are in a rotation program and not every needy child gets a backpack of food each week. The backpacks contain easy-to-prepare items such as a jar of peanut butter, crackers, jelly and a can of sausages.

"We do need help making sure our children have these essentials," Mardis said.

North Vigo High School librarian Susan Eisman said even older children can be food insecure. She told of a high school junior who said that in her home, her mother's boyfriend decided that he did not have to buy food for the teenager because she was not his child. That girl depended upon her weekly backpack of food to get her through the school year, she said.

"Poverty affects many children," Eisman said, "but hunger is the number one reason students drop out of school."

Brent Hults told fellow farmers that while it is hard to believe that hundreds of children in Vigo County go without food for a weekend, it is easy to help solve the problem by contributing to the Grain for Good program. The contribution stays in the county to help local children.

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Information from: Tribune-Star, http://www.tribstar.com


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