Edgar County may be located in America’s breadbasket, but many Paris children — as many as 70 percent — are labeled as food insecure.
A weekend program to supplement weekend food for Paris 95 and Crestwood children has been in operation a little more than a year — but is dangerously low on funds, according to Pastor Kurt Speece, who helps oversee the program.
Although Food for Kids came from concerns raised by Kim Brown of Paris at Bell Ridge Christian Church, the program is supported by other local organizations outside of the faith community, Speece emphasized.
The volunteers packed the food for the 70 children in the two school districts ages kindergarten through eighth grade.
“The idea is we provide two breakfasts, two lunches and two dinners for each child as well as a snack,” Speece explained. Packed in Wal-Mart bags donated by the local store, Speece counts each bag and places them in a special tote for each school. Volunteers deliver the food Friday to the nurses office at Crestwood, Mayo, Wenz and Memorial Schools.
“The school nurse makes sure every child gets their food,” he said.
The cost per week is about $400, Speece said. The volunteers who shop spend wisely, Speece said to stretch every dollar.
The problem, he explained, is there are six more weeks of school after spring break and only enough money for one more week.
“We’re hopeful that churches, service organizations and individuals who can help can make a donation,” he said. Donations may be made to the Edgar County Community Foundation at the trust department of the Edgar County Bank.
Before the program — which receives no government subsidy — began, volunteers spoke with individuals who operate similar programs in Danville, Clinton, Ind., and Marshall.
Speece said the head of the Danville program was particularly helpful. “She has a specific menu and she shared it with us.”
The local program includes UTH (ultra high temperature pasteurzation) milk that does not require refrigeration, giving it a longer shelf life, juice boxes, cereal, soup, single serve pasta and meat and similar food items.
All of the canned foods have pop top cans in case the child does not have access to a can opener. “We want the child to be able to eat if they are alone,” he explained.
Judy and Fenton Cash have volunteered from the beginning of the program. She noted it was difficult to think that some children in the community wouldn’t have a meal from a school lunch on Friday at noon until school breakfast on Monday morning.
“We’ve mever really been hungry,” Judy Cash said. “To think of a child going hungry. It just breaks your heart.”
Anyone who has questions about Food for Kids or volunteering may contact Speece at Bell Ridge Christian Church at 217-463-8024.
“We need help,” he said.
Volunteers for the program include Gage Johnson, Carol Abernathy, Robert and Lis Laughead, Angie Barrett, Fenton and Judy Cash, Suzie Kelly, Lori Bell, Taylor Dunn, Sis Satterfield, Diane Mathews, Sandy Campbell, Kurt Speece, Scott and Abby Barrett, Kim Brown, Joy Turner, Marian Mattingly, Amy Hannig and Camille Foley.