Volunteers, donations help with ‘food insecurity’

By Maria Ahmad

School is out for the summer, and while that may mean vacation for some, others are struggling to provide a meal for themselves.

Data from Map the Meal Gap shows that DeKalb County had about 4,500 children who were considered “food insecure” in 2010.

“Food insecurity is a term used by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) meaning that, at some point, a person does not have adequate access to food,” said Donna Lake, Director of Communications at the Northern Illinois Food Bank.

The USDA sets the requirements and guidelines for eligibility for free or reduced lunches for children in schools who may fall under the food insecure description.

“These students are challenged to find nutritious meals during the school year, and that does not change in the summer,” said Ellen Rogers, the Associate Director of the Voluntary Action Center (VAC) in DeKalb.

The volunteers at VAC prepare meals from June through August and serve them at the YMCA and other locations in the county. According to the VAC website, about 300 meals are made daily.

The USDA requires food banks and other organizations with a summer program serve a nutritionally balanced meal.

“We need to ensure that the food is healthy and something the kids would actually enjoy eating,” Rogers said. “It defeats the purpose if the food is not healthy.”

There are several ways students can help provide meals for those in need.

“Organizations are always looking for volunteers to give time or additional resources,” Rogers said. “Students can hold food drives or fundraisers to help.”

Students are also encouraged to spread awareness of the issue and to donate whatever they can.

“There is a lot of hunger in the community and it is often overlooked,” Lake said. “It is not just an urban issue; it is on every block, and it is not getting better.”