Saturday, October 31, 2015

Happy Halloween and Harvest!

With autumn's cold weather outside now causing a bite to the skin, many low-income families and individuals are looking for food and shelter to sustain their lives through the winter months.

Here are some resources for companies and organizations who wish to donate food, as well as resources for patrons to use for assistance:

Gleaners Food Bank, Programs to Fight Hunger

Hammond, Northwest Indiana Food Bank, Food Rescue

Indiana State Association of Food Banks, Members

Indianapolis: Hunger Relief Meal Sites

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Serving the Public at Our Libraries

Summer 2015 has come to an end and it's time for us to ask you for help.

If your library participated in the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP), please let us know!

We'd like to hear from librarians and patrons about your experiences. We'll be collecting responses over the next few months.

Please send a message to this email address:
Answer the following questions. Anyone is welcome to participate.

1) What city and state do you live in?
2) Where was your SFSP site located? A library? A school? If other, then where?
3) What did you think of the program? What were 2 positive things and 2 negative things?

Our efforts to help libraries become more involved in the USDA's Summer Food Service Program will continue into 2016. We will also be creating a public directory online called FOOD, or Food Options Open Doors, to help libraries provide patrons with resources for finding locations outside the library where they may find free or low cost meals.

At our libraries, the West Branch of Vigo County in West Terre Haute, IN, and the State Library here in downtown Indianapolis, IN, we serve the public in many ways each day. We're part of a local effort at our libraries to help our communities, and we're proud of that.

The West Terre Haute Library received good news this spring. New renovations will be made to the West Terre Haute Community Center and the building will become the new West Branch library. You can read more from WISH news here.

Have fun with your Back-To-School events, and have a great school year!

Monday, June 29, 2015

Thank you!


I'm sorry we've been away for awhile. 

+Lauri Chandler and I have been very busy this spring and summer, and we want to send a message to everyone to thank them for all of the work they do at libraries to help serve children and families! 

To learn more about how to get your library involved in the USDA's Summer Food Service Program, message us via GooglePlus.

...and just as a reminder, feeding yourself and your families counts!

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Summer Meals Across the Nation

If you've ever worked on community projects, you might know the same thing +Lauri Chandler and I have just discovered -- that many people had been thinking about projects very similar to our Let's Do Lunch idea, even before we came up with it.

Our idea is to help Indiana libraries provide meals for students while they are out of school for the summer. Fortunately, people have already started to do this with other programs and in other states.

That is completely ok, we say! The more the merrier. If lunching at the library could go viral across the nation, that would be totally fantastic. It's that kind of expansive public service mentality that keeps us all moving toward the same goal - alleviating hunger in this state and across the nation. There are many different organizations around the lunch table, and plenty of room for more. Maybe yours will be next!

Here's an article from this summer in the School Library Journal about how to help host a summer meal program. Indiana's Let's Do Lunch project helps Indiana libraries with some of these steps by providing them with the resources they need to get started.

Libraries Needed to Host Summer Meal Programs. Here’s How to Help.
School Library Journal, July 2015
By Kathy Ishizuka

A major supporter for summer meals at libraries is the USDA Summer Food Service Program. Many states partner with the USDA to provide students meals during the summer. Libraries can sign up to be an SFSP site. Here is the national Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) website. For more information about how your Indiana library can sign up to become an SFSP site, visit our website, Let's Do Lunch.

Here is some of the information we've collected on participants in programs at libraries similar to the one we promote in Indiana.

Click here for a U.S. map of Library Summer Meal Sites.

California Summer Meal Coalition California Institute for Local Government
Lunch at the Library California Library Association

Summer Food Service Program Hunger Free Colorado

Indiana's Summer Food Service Program, hosted by the Indiana Department of Education

Summer Food Service Program OH Department of Education

Summer Food Service Program PA Department of Education
Food4Kids Summer Commission on Economic Opportunity

If you know of other similar projects in your area, please leave a comment at the bottom of this post.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Farm to Table to Library

Photo courtesy of Hartford Dot Com

Efforts to reduce the distance between where food is grown and where it is eaten can benefit everyone. There are campaigns across the nation about buying local and increasing accessibility to fresh produce to people in urban and poverty stricken areas.

How can libraries play a part?

One great example is the Kitchen café at the Hartford (CT) Public Library! Take a look at an article from the blog The Connecticut Table, A New Farm-to-Table Café for All, Kitchen at Hartford Public Library.

The library-restaurant community partnership not only sells breakfast, lunch, snack, and drink options, but it also doubles as a jobs training & placement program and provides cooking classes.

You can find more information about Kitchen through its Facebook page and website. Go for a visit online or stop in if you're on the east coast to see 'farm to table' in action at a library!

We're hoping this provides inspiration for Indiana libraries. It is possible to make food a successful part of your outreach for your library!

For more Indiana-based farm to table/farm to fork, or field to plate/field to fork partnerships, take a look at efforts across the state:

Walhill Farm in Batesville, IN
The Farmhouse at Fair Oaks Farms
Rocky River in Granger, IN
Farm to Fork Market at Normandy Farms, Indianapolis
State House Market and Hoosier Harvest Market, Indianapolis
Various sites in Indianapolis
Michiana area sites
Seeds and Greens in New Albany, IN
Farm to Fork restaurants in the South Shore area, along Lake Michigan
Valley Kitchen in Valparaiso, IN

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Lunch Lady Land

Who can forget the Saturday Night Live skit done by funnymen Adam Sandler and Chris Farley, Lunch Lady Land? You can find it on NBC's website, here. The skit plays on common stereotypes of those hard-working ladies who fed us our lunches during endless days of public school. Adam Sandler's fun lyrics and Chris Farley's brilliant interpretation of the lunch lady's kind intentions and daydreamy dance surrounded by cafeteria food are a reminder that though we sometimes dreaded the lunch we received, the lunch lady was always there to serve it.

Adam Sandler and Chris Farley in Lunch Lady Land
The old image of the cafeteria lunch lady provides a good backdrop for this project. The lunch lady was an unsung hero. What we sometimes don't admit to ourselves is that she had mad skills at the art of food preparation, many of which we were never aware of. She was strong and patient enough to lift heavy pans and serve the same meal over all four lunch periods. She showed up at the school early every day to cook for us, then went home, most likely, to cook for her family.

The Let's Do Lunch project tries to bring to light the connection between the image that libraries have as feel-good public service institutions and the specific realities libraries and staff face when bringing services to communities in underserved areas.

Like the lunch lady, librarians have elite skills that come with the profession which people are often not aware of. We are organizers of information, so we have quick ways to get at the resources that could take you hours to locate. We are active listeners. It's part of our job to listen. While on desk duty, we willfully put ourselves on the front lines to answer any question you might have. Think about that. How many questions could you possibly ask about all of the topics at all levels of thought? We help you answer the very simple to the incredibly complex.

The problem of hunger and how it relates to literacy fits into the complex category. How do we, as librarians, face it? What can we do about it? This is our chance! Let's Do Lunch is here to help. This project will provide an online portal for resources you need to start a lunch and nutrition information program at your library. We will provide current data for understanding needs within your community. We will provide information and links to articles about similar programs around the state and the nation. We will also maintain a database of social and food service contact names and numbers for public use called FOOD (Food Options Open Doors). Additional print and online materials will be available as we collect them on our project website, here. You can always access our project website by clicking the tab at the top of the blog or the Lauri and Katie image on the right side of the blog. Stand on the right side of hunger. Help offer our patrons options. Let's Do Lunch!

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Local Fight Against Hunger

Hancock County focuses on collaborative efforts in fight against hunger

This recent article from the Greenfield Daily Reporter gives us some promising news... along with hard-to-swallow facts about Central Indiana. One of the most important national statistics cited are these:

      According to the latest 2012 research compiled by Feeding America, the nation’s largest domestic food relief    
      network, nearly 8,000 county residents – 11.3 percent of the population – struggled with food insecurity.
      Food insecurity is defined by the United States Department of Agriculture as the sporadic lack of access to
      enough food for an active, healthy life for all household members and limited or uncertain availability of
      nutritionally adequate foods.

When I was in middle school, I had been working on the problem of homelessness for a social studies class and I hadn't come up with many good solutions on my own. So, my mother encouraged me to join our county's Coalition Against Homelessness. We sat through Board meetings. We attended group sessions. We read articles and listened to people talk. But what did we really do? The intent was there and the belief in success was present... but did the plan on paper really make a difference? As a kid, I did not understand that to serve people well, you need a plan. I didn't grasp that in order to plan, you need time... and access to funds. Unfortunately, my attention was short and I didn't stick around to learn more. (Those lessons for me came much later.)

The big push at a solution from our family really came with my sister, who my parents involved in our local Community Kitchen. She worked there for years cooking for people who needed meals. Because of her work there, she continues to serve others in her job in food prep/waitressing, but she has a different perspective than most. My sister understands that in order to succeed in life, she is part of a bigger picture of serving the public. In her case, it's by way of a business that serves food 24/7. She is an honest businesswoman and she is smart with the modest amount of income she takes home. She takes satisfaction in the interactions she has with customers and she makes the most of her job.

All in all, to serve the public is work, and most often we don't get paid to serve.

In Hancock County, many organizations have collaborated in order to serve the public. This has involved planning, coordinating, and sharing of services. The amazing thing about this effort is the level of collaboration between different organizations, as Jim Mayfield expresses in his article above. The county not only had a successful Summer Meals program that served hot lunches to children and youth, but the United Way of Central Indiana, Hancock Regional Hospital, Gleaners Food Bank, and the city parks department brought in local organizations to educate families about available support services in the area. Also,

      Other joint enterprises established a new food pantry out of Mt. Vernon High School to serve families in that
      district; a weekend food program that will get shelf-stable food to qualifying kids in the Eastern Hancock
      school district; and collaboration between Hancock County Senior Services and the Hancock County Food
      Pantry that gets food boxes to seniors who need it.

You can take a look at the distribution of income in Hancock County for a bigger picture view. According to 2011 income data accessed through the IUPUI Polis Center's, almost 40% of the households in the county had an income below $50,000. Almost 15% of households made below $24,000 in 2011.

Looking at the pie chart above, you may not be able to tell that beyond 50% of the population between the ages of 18 and 64 were living in poverty in 2011 (below), which may be an indicator of the need that exists today in this county.

In Westchester County, NY in 2000, I worked with families who, despite their efforts at finding and securing housing, were unable to stay afloat in the economy. Many of my families had multiple health and employment issues that kept them from being able to make enough money in one of the areas of the country where the income gap remains very, very high. It was also financially difficult for me to live there as a poor student and young professional. About one third of Westchester County families brought in less that $50,000 per year 10 years before this, in an area where the cost of living is much higher than in Hancock County.