How often do the words “I’m hungry” thoughtlessly tumble from your lips when it’s been a few hours since you last sat down for a meal?
For far too many people in Indiana and Madison County, those words are accompanied by much more than a grumble of the stomach. “I’m hungry” is a way of life.
According to the latest study from Feeding America, 16.3 percent of Hoosiers are food insecure, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s measure of lack of access to enough food for an active, healthy life for all household members. That’s more than a million Hoosiers who don’t know where their next meal is coming from.
In Madison County, 16 percent of residents, or about 21,000 individuals, are food insecure, a figure borne out by the number of families that local food pantries serve at giveaways and tailgates.
What’s truly heartbreaking is that about 7,300 of those individuals are children.
It’s a startling number that likely grows during the summer months when children don’t have access to the hot and nutritious meals provided by local schools. Lack of nutrition during the summer leaves kids more prone to illness and other health issues and might lead to poor performance in the classroom once school begins again.
That makes the summer lunch program started by Alexandria-Monroe Community Schools an extremely valuable asset to this community.
Starting last week and running through July, any child in Madison County up to age 18 can go to Alexandria-Monroe Elementary School, 800 N. Central St., between 11:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and receive a free, nutritious lunch. The school is also providing educational activities.
The federal program is funded by the USDA’s Child Nutrition Program, though the exact cost to Alexandria isn’t yet clear. Whatever minimal cost Alexandria incurs will be well worth it.