Groups Look To Help Alleviate Child Hunger In Oskaloosa
Oskaloosa, Iowa – Child hunger is a bigger problem than many may be aware of. That is the premise behind some individuals and groups looking to help make sure children don’t go hungry during the summer months and on the weekends.
Free school lunches help those children in need of nutrition. “What about weekends? What about during the summer?” said United Way Executive Director Amy Langdon. “There’s nothing being done, for the most part, to help kids who are food insecure, who might not have access to food for every meal. There’s nothing that’s helping them outside of that school time.”
The summer feeding program is a Federal program that reimburses for the cost of meals.
After some discussion on how to provide this opportunity for children last year, it became apparent that it was difficult to implement at the current time. This time around two Ameriacorp volunteers, who are currently in the elementary school, will be available to help through the summer.
Usually the program is sponsored by the local schools, but in this case the sponsors will be local churches. Martha Comfort and other ladies have been helping to facilitate the discussion on behalf of the Central United Methodist Church and Friends Church to help build a coalition of other churches and volunteers, to help make the program possible.
The fight against childhood hunger in our community is the drive for these volunteers. “There’s lots of people in the community who, I think, would be willing to help,” said Langdon.
For now, the group will focus on finding ways to feed children during the summer. Another program being explored is a backpack buddies program.
In the backpack program, a child would be given a zip-lock style bag filled with nutritious foods to take home over the weekend. “it’s food they can either make themselves in the microwave,” or other types of foods, like granola bars, that require no cooking.
For the summer feeding program, different sites throughout the community will host children to come visit and eat their meals.
Locally, the group hopes to also offer another activity, such as reading programs, to go along with the food. According to Langdon, students of low income families are at a disadvantage in regards to reading. She says that low income children will lose reading proficiency over the summer months, versus their peers in different economic situations.
For now, the group is looking to reach an attainable goal of offering brown bag lunches a couple of days a week.
“There’s an invisible population of Oskaloosa that no one sees, no one hears about, but teachers know there are hungry kids,” Langdon said of the issue.
Langdon said that if you are interested in helping with the program, contact the Mahaska County United Way at 641-673-6043.