Groups step up to battle summer food insecurity in Hamilton County

NOBLESVILLE, Ind. — The communities in Hamilton County are some of the most affluent in the state, according to information from the US Census Bureau. The misconception is each family can provide the necessities for their children.

"Here in the Noblesville community, and in Hamilton County as a whole, there are many families that are very blessed," said Brandy Dings, an early intervention advocate with the Noblesville Youth Assistance Program. "But that does not come without those who may be struggling."

Dings knows there is food insecurity in her community. The group's summer lunch program is on track to serve 400 students this year. That's up from 250 last year.

As part of the program, volunteers pack bags of food that give each child enough for the lunch they would get at school and some snacks. Then the bags are distributed weekly to the families in Noblesville.

"It costs about $2.50 per lunch," Dings said. "So, if you look at that as $25 for 10 days and an entire summer, it's $100 [per child]."

According to the annual Kids Count report, nearly 500,000 children in Indiana are on free or reduced lunch. That is hundreds of thousands of children saddled with this stress. Ashlan Cavender, who is also an early intervention advocate with the Noblesville Youth Assistance Program, said they try to alleviate that.

"They can fix the food themselves and be good to go for the day so they can focus on having fun and being a kid," Cavender said about the bags.

There are several other programs around the area to help fill in the gap of summer lunches. For example, the Summer Food Service Program in Indianapolis and the food assistance program in Fishers also helps students.

Both Noblesville and Fishers Youth Assistance Programs are hosting Pack the Cruisers fundraising events on Saturday from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. at the Kroger stores in each city. The goal is pack police cruisers as full of food as possible.

You can find more information on Noblesville's event by visiting www.facebook.com/NoblesvilleYouthAssistanceProgram. If you would like to make donations in Fishers, you can find more information at www.facebook.com/fishersyouthassistance.

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