The Herald Bulletin

March 16, 2013

Tim Kean: Your piece in solving the puzzle of poverty

By Tim Kean
For The Herald Bulletin

— Teamwork for Quality Living in Delaware County, led by Molly Flodder, has organized a coalition of agencies to make 2013 the Poverty Awareness Year, with the theme “Solving the Puzzle of Poverty — What’s My Piece?”

Twelve months of events are planned, and Second Harvest is in the mix. We need the relationship of other agencies for our efforts to be a part of solving the puzzle. At times, every agency feels like it is swimming upstream alone, but we must continue to look around and grab all those opportunities to bond with others who are in the water beside us.

You might say, why go upstream when there is plenty to do right here? But upstream is where the puzzle gets put together, at the root cause of the issue.

Madison County Community Health Center in Anderson is also forming a group of agencies to collaborate in a plan to advance better health choices for county residents.

You see, Madison County ranks overall 92nd out of 92 counties in some vital health measurements — obesity, smoking and other alarming topics. Kim Rayford from the Community Health Center is leading this organizing effort. I have been attending meetings and have made new acquaintances in areas of diabetes, smoking cessation, the Impact Center and Anderson public schools, to name a few.

In both counties, the role of Second Harvest is in providing food, primarily fresh fruits and vegetables. One of the new relationships we have begun to build is providing food to schools. This is not really a new idea; it’s a new twist. We just provided food to our first elementary school, Sutton in Muncie, for a distribution after its normal monthly family night activities. We will be partnering with Sutton through the end of the school year each month, and we hope this will have improve parental attendance at the meetings.

We are scheduled to do the same in March at Erskine and April at Valley Grove elementary schools in Anderson. These schools are our pilot programs for the spring, and we will review results to plan for the fall. These activities may eliminate a need to visit a food pantry or tailgate distribution, which would be a real benefit for some families.

We have another model for middle and high schools by which we are looking to run a test as well. This would have more of a business model component that would provide students real-life opportunities to learn about ordering, receiving, stocking and distributing beside the benefit of getting better food choices to students that they could take home as needed. We think that may help some students with another reason to decide to stay in school.

These ideas are not our creative breakthroughs. Models like these are up and running in other parts of the state, so why not here? Our puzzle piece is food, educate and advocate. This one looks like a good fit for everyone.

Tim Kean is executive director of Second Harvest Food Bank of East Central Indiana. His column appears the third Sunday of each month. He can be reached at tkean@curehunger.org.