GREENVILLE – For some people, food is not something that is taken for granted.
CEO of Hunger Free America Joel Berg said it is important for people to get the facts. Berg shares some research from the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC).
“Nine out of every ten Ohio kids who get school lunches during the school year, fail to get summer meals, giving the state one of the worst summer meals records in the nation,” he said. “Ohioans are very upset when they lose to other states in football, so I know they will be outraged to learn they are losing to other states in feeding children nutritious meals.”
Millions of children who rely on free and reduced-price school breakfasts and lunches to keep hunger at bay during the school year lose access to those meals when the school year ends, according to FRAC. Numerous reasons have been driving the low participation in the Summer Nutrition Programs and making it difficult to ensure that children who need summer meals receive them. Some of the primary drivers have been the limited number of basic summer programs for low-income children and limited transportation in rural and more spread-out areas to those programs, according to FRAC.
One answer to Darke County’s need for summer meals, and meals all-year-round, is the Grace Resurrection Community Center (GRCC), at 433 E. Water Street, in Greenville. Its soup kitchen offers free nutritious lunches, four days a week. Volunteers served a recent picnic-themed lunch, of ham sandwiches, baked beans, cole slaw, potato chips, cookies and ice cream. A girl scout troop from Englewood started out singing a prayer with volunteers from St. Matthew Lutheran Church, in Ithaca. St. Matthew Lutheran Church Chairwoman Donna Miller has been volunteering on many projects, since 2008.
“I think it’s so important to serve our people,” Miller said. “There is so much need in the county, and I think it’s so important that churches stay active. I think this is one of the greatest things that Greenville and the surrounding areas have.”
Executive Director of the GRCC Sharon Fellers, volunteers from about 20 different churches serve at the soup kitchen each day of the month, planning the menu, bringing the food and cleaning up. Fellers attends the Castine Church of the Brethren, in Arcanum. She said she prayed for guidance about doing something local to help the community, and the executive director position opened at GRCC. She has been in the position for five years. While the job has its frustrations, Fellers rewards come by way of the people served.
“I know a lot of the people that come here and I enjoy talking to them and listening to their stories,” she said. “They tell me how their families are doing. They come to me requesting prayer and they update me with their progress. They are like my family.”
In addition to the Soup Kitchen, the GRCC offers a Food Pantry, a Clothing Bank, the Feeding America BackPack Program and a Medical Fee Assistance program, to qualified individuals. According to Fellers, between 800-1,000 volunteers serve the programs. The food pantry serves 30-50 families per night, who can come twice a month, receiving: canned goods, boxed milk, soups, veggies, fruit, pasta, meat, produce and bakery items.
“I try to tell them to come here first to see what we can give you, then go shopping to fill in what you need,” Fellers said. “I tell them to cook with the boxed milk, and save the milk they buy for drinking and eating cereal.”
The majority of the food pantry items comes from a the Shared Harvest Foodbank warehouse, in Fairfield. Shared Harvest Foodbank is part of the Feeding America nationwide network of food banks which provides hunger statistics at the state and local levels through “Map the Meal Gap”. Executive Director of the Shared Harvest Foodbank Tina Osso said they once measured food in and out the door, which only measured the food bank’s distribution; not the real need.
“In Darke County, we have approximately 6,730 individuals who are food insecure, meaning they have unstable access to healthy food,” Osso said. “The gap is mapped by taking all of the resources people may be able to access to help them put food on the table, plus what it costs in Darke County for a meal. Over a year’s time, in Darke County, more than 955,000 meals are missed. That is where we start, and then we look at the amount of meals we are currently providing through food distribution and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Shared Harvest is providing against that 955,000, almost 400,000 meals with its partner agencies in Darke County, through: the Food Pantry Program; the Commodity Supplemental Food Program, providing food to people aged 60 or older; and during the school year the BackPack Program, which provides food to students who have unreliable food resources every weekend.”
Why do some of the folks from St. Matthew Lutheran Church, in Ithaca, volunteer at the GRCC Soup Kitchen?
“This is what Christians are supposed to do,” said volunteer Anita Schneider.
The writer may be reached at 937-569-4354. Join the conversation and get updates on Facebook search Darke County Sports or Advocate 360. For more features online go to dailyadvocate.com.