Food Bank of Lincoln Puts Food on the Table
Since 1982, the Food Bank of Lincoln has been committed to alleviating hunger in Southeast Nebraska, explained public relations director Alex Shada last week as he visited with Thayer County Commissioners Dave Bruning, Chris Frye and Dean Krueger. “We deliver food to Blue Valley Community Action, partner with Catholic Social Services to hold a food distribution service, oversee the distribution of food-filled backpacks for 22 students at Thayer Central schools and offer assistance in helping low-income individuals apply for SNAP (food stamps) benefits,” Shada said. “We serve 16 counties in Nebraska.”
More than 11 percent of the population in Thayer County is food-insecure, Shada added. “Many are children who are not sure how or when they will get their next meal.”
Which is how the BackPack Program was started. Food-filled backpacks are given to students in need of food over the weekend. The program primarily targets students who qualify for their school’s Free Lunch Program.
Many of these students rely on their school’s breakfasts and lunches for their most nutritious meals of the day, Shada added. “In some cases, these are their only meals of the day. These students are then faced with a food crisis over the weekend.”
The BackPack Program is a way to help these students and their families until students return to school on Monday. Currently, the BackPack Program sends over 3,000 backpacks home to students on Friday afternoons in 30 Lincoln Public Schools, five Lincoln Catholic schools and 39 rural communities in southeast Nebraska. According to a fact sheet, the Food Bank of Lincoln distributed over 112,464 backpacks in 2011.
The Food Bank also works with Catholic Social Services of Southern Nebraska to hold mobile pantries in 11 communities in the service area. Distribution takes place every three months on a rotating basis at a variety of sites including a Knights of Columbus Hall, the 4-H building at a county fairground, a National Guard Armory, and several Catholic parish halls.
In Hebron, the distribution takes place on the third Wednesday of the designated month at the Sacred Heart Catholic Church hall. November’s distribution was one week early due to the Thanksgiving holiday. The next distribution will be Jan. 23, from noon to 1 p.m. “Food will be available to anybody in need,” Shada said, “and all are encouraged to attend. There are 600 people receiving food in Thayer County; almost 12 percent of the population in this county are food-insecure.”
Shada said food-insecure means they aren’t sure where their next meal is coming from. “This is pretty consistent with other counties,” he said.
In 2011, the Bank collected 8,477,447 pounds of food for distribution and provided 6,416,582 meals, or 17,580 meals per day.
The Food Bank delivers bags of grocery staples to Community Action Programs in under-served counties on a monthly basis. The bags are made up primarily of government commodity vegetables, fruits, proteins, cereals and juices, which can be quickly and easily distributed to families by program staff. Bag distribution from the Food Bank of Lincoln go to Lincoln Action Program of Saunders County; Southeast Nebraska Community Action of Richardson and Nemaha counties; and Blue Valley Community Action of Jefferson, Fillmore, Thayer, Butler, Polk, and Saline Counties.
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as the Food Stamp Program, helps low-income people and families buy the food they need for good health. The SNAP Outreach Program, at the Food Bank of Lincoln, provides food stamp information and application assistance, as another means of providing meals to the community’s most vulnerable families. In 2011, the Food Bank of Lincoln provided $637,014 in benefits.
“Our plea is for suggestions on how we can help your county,” Shada said to the commissioners during the meeting. “The current need is great, and we rely heavily on local support to help those who are struggling to put food on the table during the holidays.”
BVCA in Hebron is open Monday, Tuesday and Thursday from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Wednesday from 8:30 a.m. to noon, and Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.