By Chris Bavender
More than 26,000 residents – or close to 10 percent – of Hamilton County are food insecure. That means those people don’t always know where they’ll find their next meal, according to an April 2012 Map the Meal Gap study conducted by Feeding America.
This month students in the 4/5 challenge classrooms at Towne Meadow Elementary School are fighting back with the Fall Food Drive.
Through the end of the month, 54 students will collect canned food for the Hamilton County Harvest Food Bank. It’s part of the annual yearlong Make a Difference project.
“Not many of the students realized that kids their own age are going hungry here in Hamilton County,” said Josie McKay, a 4/5 challenge teacher. “They had no idea just how many food pantries there really are in the Carmel (and) Zionsville area. We want to get the awareness out there.”
The two classrooms are comprised of 9-, 10- and 11-year-olds and have a combined goal of 2,000 cans, with a personal goal of 35 cans per student. The catch – they can’t ask their parents for money to buy food or bring anything from home.
Armed with an informational “Hunger in Indiana” brochure they designed, the students got to work.
“They hit the ground running and have come up with really great ideas,” McKay said. “One little girl has enlisted the help of her soccer team, one boy set up a lemonade stand and took the money he made from that and went to Big Lots and bought a bunch of canned food.”
In addition to the cans brought in by the two classes, a box is located in the school lobby for additional donations and a challenge has been issued to other classrooms.
“We are raffling an extra recess period for the class with the most cans – excluding us,” McKay said. “On the morning announcements we give a hunger stat in Indiana to inform the school and motivate them to bring in cans and support the cause. One classroom had a local business donate cans to them. So, it’s been fun getting the whole school involved.”
As part of the annual MAD project, students are required to research a current issue in poverty, report what’s being done to combat the issue and what they are going to do personally to make a difference. The students have until April to carry out their plan of action.
“Our hope is that through this year-long project our students will understand that even though they are just children they still have the capability and ability to make a difference whether it is large or small,” McKay said.
“This is my tenth year teaching at Towne Meadow and my eighth year of having my students participate in some sort of service learning,” said Lisa Kuhn, 4/5 challenge teacher. “Each year, I have students who have long since ‘graduated’ from my class, contact me and tell me how much their MAD project impacted their lives and that they are continuing to make a difference.”
The collection will continue until Oct. 31.
“It’s just incredible what they are doing,” McKay said. “They come in with cans every day.”
“Our kids have big hearts and we’re so proud of them,” Kuhn said.