Hamilton County often is ranked near the top in the state with the most income, leading to a common misconception that it does not have people in need.
One organization is looking to increase its operations this summer to help Noblesville families, especially children.
Last year, the Noblesville Youth Assistance Program took the lead on a summer lunch program that benefits Noblesville Schools students who receive free and reduced-price lunch. This year, the program is expected to grow significantly with a new way to reach more who may need assistance.
“That was our first summer rolling out with it completely as our own program,” said Brandy Egan, an early intervention advocate with NYAP. “We have found a new way to be able to mass message (through the school district), so we anticipate our numbers to be quite a bit higher this year.”
In past years, NYAP and its summer lunch program partners targeted neighborhoods.
“We would type up a letter, and we would ask the school to send it to the free-and-reduced lunch population in certain neighborhoods,” Egan said.
“Because at that time, we didn’t know what we were looking at, numbers-wise, so we didn’t want to open it up to all free-and-reduced lunch (students) and then not be able to serve them,” said Ashlan Cavender, early intervention advocate with NYAP. “But this year, we are targeting that entire population at Noblesville Schools.”
According to Egan and Cavender, approximately 25 percent of Noblesville Schools students qualify for free-and-reduced lunch.
“Fishers Youth Assistance Program had started their own summer lunch program, and when they found out they could use mass messaging to get the word out about their program, they had to cap it at 600,” Egan said. “Last summer, we had 250 students that we served, so this year, we’re anticipating a number between 500 and 600, but we aren’t going to cap it. Our board decided that we aren’t going to tell a family they can’t receive our services or that they’re going to be put on a wait list.”
On the back end, Egan and Cavender said operations can be hectic. Shopping and checking out at the grocery store alone is a chore when volunteers are packing carts with hundreds of the same items.
However, for families in need, the process is simple. A message is sent with a link to sign up. From there, families can choose a distribution site and schedule a pick-up time to fit their schedule.
Nearly a dozen sites throughout the city make up the distribution network. Packing is done on Mondays at Ivy Tech on Conner Street for once-a-week distribution. The packs contain snacks and lunches for the entire week during the eight weeks of Noblesville Schools’ summer break.
Meal bags are packed with the student in mind, Egan said.
“They get a menu in the bags, and basically the items in the bags they can use to make the things on the menu,” Egan added. “It’s all stuff that most school-aged children could make themselves, like a sandwich and soup.”
“It’s really meant to take the place of the lunch the students would be getting if they were in school,” Cavender said.
Egan said one snack and meal for one student costs NYAP approximately $2.50, amounting to $12.50 per week, or $100 for the summer.
“It really becomes a financial burden to some of these families when their kids are no longer eating two meals a day at school for free,” Egan said. “We’re working with families that are already on a fixed income, and if they have four kids, that’s $400 extra. Where does that come from?”
NYAP uses resources for the summer lunch program through its partnership with Hamilton County Harvest Food Bank. The program receives an allotted amount of food in pounds through the food bank in addition to a portion of the HCHFB’s proceeds of Meijer’s Simply Give program.
“But we get that amount whether we serve 250 kids or 700 kids,” Egan said. “We really are trying to get the word out so people understand what we are taking on.”
- Volunteer—Noblesville Youth Assistance Program always is accepting volunteers in various capacities, from food packing to shopping and more.
- Donate—Those who wish to donate to the summer lunch program can do so at fundly.com/lunch-program or by mailing a check to Noblesville Youth Assistance Program, 1775 Field Dr., Noblesville 46060.
- Pack the Cruiser—The annual Pack the Cruiser food drive is set for June 1. In Noblesville, Kroger stores at 172 W. Logan St and 14800 Hazel Dell Crossing, are participating to let shoppers help pack a police cruiser full of food for the summer lunch program.