Hunger Awareness Groups Pack Meals, Have Impact
Local. Domestic. International. Hunger and food insecurity needs at each of these levels receive assistance and gain awareness from two partner organizations of the Greater Poweshiek Community Foundation (GPCF).
At the local level, Tiger Packs helps to combat hunger in the Grinnell-Newburg School District by providing eligible K-8 students a weekly bag of kid-friendly, nutritious food to take home on weekends. High school students have access to an in-school food pantry with healthy snacks and takeaway meals.
Tiger Packs was established as a pilot program by GPCF in 2013 to address the links between nutrition, education and poverty. The program has expanded in the current school year to serve nearly 200 district students. Any student eligible for free or reduced lunch is also eligible to receive Tiger Packs, as well as students identified by school personnel as food insecure.
As the need for Tiger Packs has increased, so has the need for a reliable food supply and delivery and permanent packaging space. Grinnell Hy-Vee store director Ryan Benz, who is also a Tiger Packs advisory board member, offered the grocery store’s assistance with ordering food. Twice a month Benz delivers food products purchased by the Tiger Packs account to the Grinnell Christian Church for packing events.
Teams of 12 volunteers, hosted by Tiger Packs advisory board members, pack the meals for delivery to the schools the following day. Tiger Packs advisory board members include Delphina Baumann, Benz, Doug Cameron, Monica Chavez-Silva, Julia Downs, Caleb Elfenbein, Jean Halverson, Nikki Harter, Dwight Laidig, Deanna Shorb, and Scott Surovec, with support from Nicole Brua-Behrens and Lee Smith at GPCF.
The Tiger Packs meals cost approximately $3.40 per student per week. Already this school year, volunteers have packaged 1,190 meals. Advisory Board member Delphina Baumann says that “although it’s the kind of program where you hope the numbers decrease, rather than increase, our community has responded generously by making gifts to Tiger Packs and by volunteering.”
“Making a gift to support the cost of one child’s Tiger Packs meals can make a difference in our community for people who are very grateful for the support,” Baumann said.
Those interested in volunteering for a Tiger Packs packing event should contact Lee Smith at GPCF, 641-236-5518. Gifts to Tiger Packs can be made online at http://greaterpcf.org/program-partners/ or by calling GPCF.
National and international outreach
At the domestic and international levels, Take Away Hunger, formerly known locally as Kids Against Hunger, coordinates four community-wide events annually to package nutritious food that is shipped domestically and internationally. Since 2006, the food relief organization, relying on teams of local volunteers, has packaged more than 740,700 meals to fight hunger.
“People have expressed concerns that the food doesn’t stay here but it means that, like the Red Cross, we are meeting needs of current national and international disasters,” said local chapter president Heidi Ramaeker Pearson. “It only takes a little time to make a big impact. We recently sent meals to South Carolina and Haiti, following Hurricane Matthew, for example.”
Take Away Hunger hosts quarterly packing events in February, April, September, and November at St. Mary’s Education Center on Broad St. in Grinnell. The next packing event is Sun., Nov. 13 for meals that will be shipped to Haiti.
Teams of 12 are recruited for each packing event at a cost of $30 per person to fund the packaged meal ingredient cost. Local churches have regularly funded team members, as well as teams from Monsanto, Country Inn & Suites, ASI, and local service clubs.
“The packing events are good community building activities for teams of volunteers–young, old and in between,” Pearson said. “We’re always looking for teams, so if you have people, we can find the resources.”
Pearson started working with hunger awareness first as a college student, then through AmeriCorps at GPCF, and later as a board member. Local Take Away Hunger board members, described by Pearson as “incredibly enthusiastic and very passionate individuals,” include Amy Anderson, Mike Anderson, Lynn Cavanagh, Crystal DeNeve, Sunny Dugas, Sam Galanek, Jay Goldsher, Heriberto Hernandez, Stephanie Hou, Jeff Jonkman, Margie Laehn, Mary Lindberg, and Nancy Wolf.
To participate in a Take Away Hunger packaging event, contact Pearson at 515-460-3678. To make a gift to Take Away Hunger, contact GPCF at 641-236-5518 or online at http://greaterpcf.org/program-partners/.