GREENFIELD — Hunger in eastern Hancock County will fall into the crosshairs just after school starts later this month with a new pilot program from the Hancock County Food Pantry.
With financial assistance from the Ahrendts-Couch Family and Hancock Regional Hospital foundations, the pantry will start a school-based food pantry at Eastern Hancock middle and high schools in August that will provide students there who live with food insecurity – not knowing for certain where one’s next meal is coming from – with nourishment when they are not eating at school.
“The need is there,” said Tom Ferguson, Hancock County Food Pantry board president. “Anyone who has a teenager knows their demand for food does not go down.”
Though qualifying criteria are still being worked out, those students who do meet the guidelines will have a food safety net for the weekend once they leave school on Friday.
The concept is that students who qualify will be able to get choices of kid-friendly meals over the weekend.”
The kid-friendly classification includes those foods that are canned or otherwise packaged to prevent spoiling and that easy to prepare.
The program is similar to the BackSacks initiative started in 2006 by Gleaners Food Bank of Indiana in Indianapolis, that provides elementary students with take-home meals, which can be opened by children and do not require refrigeration or freezing, Ferguson said.
If the roll-out at EH proves successful, the local pantry plans to expand to the county’s other three school districts.
“This is sort of a Beta test for us,” Ferguson said. “If it goes well, we hope to expand into the other districts.
The Ahrendts-Couch Family Foundation was started by New Palestine natives Gregg Couch and his wife, Angela Ahrendts, who this spring traded her tartan and trench coats as CEO of British fashion company Burberry for a senior leadership role with Apple, taking on a newly created role as a senior vice president overseeing strategy and operation of its retail and online stores.
The foundation was created, according to charitycommission.gov.uk, to relieve poverty, advance education and promote good health.
The program also fell right in line with the Hancock Regional Hospital Foundation’s goals as well.
“The foundation’s grants are committed to issues of health care in our community,” said Nancy Davis, HRH foundation executive director. “And alleviation of hunger automatically ties in with the health care in our community.”
Ferguson said the foundations’ help was the catalyst to spark the pilot program in eastern Hancock County.
“We’re blessed to have those folks behind us,” he said.