New food program will provide close to 5,000 summer meals to Putnam County students

GREENCASTLE, Ind. -- A new school year will start soon in Putnam County and leaders behind a Clay County YMCA program hope the end of summer doesn't mean the end to helping feed children.

The YMCA, which also served Putnam County, received a $25,000 grant through the Duke Energy Foundation to address food insecurity in the community. The Cornerstone Baptist Church in Greencastle has served as the meeting place for volunteers this summer to make daily meals for roughly 125 students each day since June 5.

“In Putnam County, over half of the children who attend school are on free and reduced lunch throughout the school year," said Nicole Fry, the executive branch director at the Clay County YMCA. "The thought process is when they’re at home in the summer time, families don’t get a pay increase for the summer. So when they’re focusing on having two additional meals to provide for their families, it’s a financial burden. When we can step in and take care of one meal for a family that’s a big relief.”

When the program wraps up next week, an estimated 4,812 meals will have been served over the two months.

Meals include a sandwich, two or three other items to go with it, and a bottle of water.

More than 40 people have helped put the food together, which go on three Greencastle routes or a route to Fillmore. Other churches in the community have helped get meals to students in the more rural parts of the county.

“What’s different and unique about this program is it’s specifically helping children," said Cornerstone Baptist Church Pastor David Neeley, who has overseen the day-to-day operations of the food program. "It’s handing it out to them in their home and in their neighborhoods. A lot of these kids, they can’t walk to the feeding programs that may be provided in our community, so we are taking it to them.”

The process has become so fluid for the volunteers that it takes right around an hour to get everything done.

The program will have a little grant money left over, thanks to some smart spending and food and monetary donations from the community. The hope is the program can pick up during extended school breaks and the following summers with more community generosity.

"If we have the volunteers, and people are consistent, we can start more routes next summer," Neeley said. "We want this to be sustainable. We want it to be something that isn’t one time and done.”