This much we know: There always will be children going home from school on a Friday without knowing if they will have enough food to carry them over until the next Monday.
It’s a sad statement, but a true one, given there will be an estimated 700 children — about 4 or 5 percent of the student body in the Hardin County Schools and Elizabethtown Independent Schools districts — taking part in the Feeding America, Kentucky’s Heartland BackPack Program for this school year.
For 40 weeks this school year, volunteers will spend hours every week stuffing backpacks with food for those 700 children. From granola bars to Pop Tarts to shelf-stable milk, the backpacks get filled.
The need, sadly, never stops.
Now the organization is facing a financial shortfall as a new school year nears its first month of completion and stares at the sad reality that without more funding and more food, some children will not be helped.
Milissa French, director of agency services and programs for Feeding America, offers this dose of reality on the urgency of needed funds: “If we only have money for 350 children, 350 children will get fed. That means 350 are doing without on the weekends.”
There are more children in need in Hardin County this year, up about 50. And the funding shortage can be pinpointed to the lack of available grant money.
When the BackPack Program was launched in 2006, there were a number of start-up and expansion grants that helped pay for the program. Most are gone now.
For all the wonderful traits the BackPack Program offers, it is only a temporary fix and an example of the direction United Way of Central Kentucky is urging agencies to take.
Providing food solves one problem, but doesn’t solve the greater problem of families providing for themselves. Why spend money and find money to spend on feeding a child when every Friday, they will have a stuffed backpack to take care of their hunger?
United Way’s three building blocks are education, income and health.
Finding funding this year is merely a bandage for the BackPack Program because the need, as numbers attest, is climbing. According to United Way, one in six people live in poverty and one in four children live in poverty — about 13,000 children — in Central Kentucky.
We trust completely that the children who are getting the backpacks would go hungry without them. But the funding issue just peels a layer of the overall problem of child hunger.
It is the responsibility of all of us to help solve this. It may start with a donation where $100 will take care of one child’s food for a year, but it certainly doesn’t stop there.
— The News-Enterprise, Elizabethtown