By Heather Collins
Last summer, 130 children in Carmel dealing with food insecurity were fed through the inaugural Summer Lunch Program of the Carmel Youth Assistance Program.
Free and reduced lunch programs provide assistance throughout the school year, but the CYAP knew there was a need to help curb food insecurity during the 11 weeks of summer. CYAP wants to serve more than 200 families this summer.
“One of the big pushes for our program is to identify and serve for gaps in services in our communities,” said Maggie Figge, CYAP early intervention advocate. “Quickly after CYAP started in July 2015, we found that many families struggled through the summer months with food insecurity. In fact, we know that 1 in 7 children in Hamilton County suffer from food insecurity. Summertime is their most vulnerable time as they don’t the schools in session. Those are facts we can’t ignore.”
This year, CYAP has partnered with the Carmel Police Dept. and Kroger to launch “Pack the Cruiser” June 2 at both Carmel Kroger stores. The Summer Lunch Program is a collaborative effort between CYAP, the Hamilton County Harvest Food Bank and local churches.
CPD cruisers will be parked outside of the Kroger stores at 1217 S. Range Line Rd. and 106th Street and Michigan Road. Customers can purchase items from the Summer Lunch Program food list and help fill up the CPD cruiser with food for hungry children in Carmel.
Organizers said the program was a huge success in its pilot year, with 14,300 meals served. Many of the families said the program provided their children with food that was healthier than what they would normally eat and sustained their families through the summer. This year, CYAP wants to expand and help feed children in all of the elementary schools in the district as well as Carmel Middle School and Carmel High School.
Six police and sheriff’s departments will be at nine Kroger stores June 2 to gather food for 13 Summer Lunch Programs across Hamilton County. The county-wide initiative will help provide 75,000 meals for the 1,400 children dealing with food insecurity. Last year, during the initial launch of the Pack the Cruisers program, Fishers packed 11 cruisers.
Orchard Park Presbyterian Church, St. Christopher’s Episcopal Church and Merciful Help Center also are distribution sites for donations to the Summer Lunch Program.
For information, visit youthassistance.org/carmel.