Write Team: Fight hunger, 1 child at a time

Are you ready for some startling numbers? One in five children will go to sleep tonight in our area without food. Do I know which one kid in five that is? Of course not, in fact I’m actually extrapolating the statewide statistics in Illinois to make a point about our area. Kids are going to bed hungry and that ain’t right.

I wrote a column a couple of years ago about a term that has been coined to help describe what people are going through with regard to hunger. It’s called “food insecurity.” Food insecurity simply put means you have no idea where your next meal is coming from.

According to the web site Illinois Issues, roughly 2 million people in Illinois are food insecure. And about 700,000 of those hungry are children, and they live in every county in Illinois – urban, suburban, rural, wealthy and poor. There have been efforts in Illinois to better serve the hungry, especially children, through a statewide initiative by the Illinois Commission to End Hunger. But those on the front lines say more needs to be done if the state is to thrive.

Terry Nally, director of Feeding Illinois puts it this way: “There’s a lot of attention being paid to food. It’s more important in our culture, in a high-value way, than it was before Here we are this superpower nation on Earth, and juxtaposed to that, we have nearly 2 million people in our state who go to bed hungry.”

Locally, one group of folks has said not on our watch.

In 2013, Crossbridge Community Church started a program called Feed His Children. Their motto is “Fighting hunger, one child at a time.” The ministry that started in one school, quickly spread throughout the Illinois Valley. The goal is to help others because God has blessed us!

According to the church web site, they send supplemental bags of groceries through the school system to families who need a little extra twice a month. The families that are chosen are selected by school administrators. They also supply grab and go items in school pantries and snack items for classrooms for kids who didn’t bring one. They stock several town micro pantries, where individuals can take what they need and leave what they can.”

During the school year, Crossbridge collects specific items for specific campaigns to provide food. For instance, church members were recently asked to bring in boxes of cereal that kids could take one home and have a decent breakfast.

Several times a year, Crossbridge sponsors “Pack the Pickup.” Because Crossbridge has church campuses in Ottawa and Peru, the select food store locations in those communities. It’s really simple: the church will provide lists of needed items, you go in and shop for items on that list and once paid for, drop them off in a pickup outside the store. Easy peezy, lemon squeezy.

We have all heard stories of kids that go to school early just to eat breakfast at school, many of whom did not eat dinner the night before. Their school lunch may be the last meal of the day they’ll have before going in early the next day for breakfast.

Now imagine being a kid and not be excited or looking forward to summer vacation because you’re not sure where your food will come from. That takes food insecurity to a whole new level.

So, as we go into summer, keep your eyes open for ways you can help to keep kids feed. Because anything else, well, that ain’t right.

Jonathan Freeburg is an Ottawa transplant for the past two decades-plus and a regular contributor to 1430 WCMY Radio. He can be reached at newsroom@shawmedia.com.

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