On 4‑H Day at the 2011 Indiana State Fair, the Indiana 4‑H Foundation proudly accepted a check for $96,000 that will provide more than 9,000 meals for Hoosier children who would otherwise go hungry on the weekends. The generous grant was provided by the Walmart Foundation and will be split between the Junior Leader programs in Blackford, Elkhart, Vanderburgh, and Wells Counties. These Junior Leaders will be the pilot participants in the new Feeding Tomorrow’s Future Today Indiana 4‑H program.
“This grant is a perfect example of how the Indiana 4‑H Foundation can provide funds to 4‑H youth to help them learn key life skills. Feeding Tomorrow’s Future Today will teach the 4‑H youth involved to see challenges in the world around them and to make a positive difference. Additionally, they will be addressing very real hunger needs in four Indiana counties. These skills will stick with them for the rest of their lives,” said Shelly Bingle-Coffman, Executive Director of the Foundation. “Your support of the Indiana 4‑H Foundation makes it possible for us to continue to search out funding for Indiana 4‑H youth.”
With the grant monies, 4‑H Junior Leaders in the four pilot counties will learn about food insecurity and how it impacts their communities. They will then combine their new awareness with budgeting skills and their knowledge of healthy food choices as they facilitate Feeding Tomorrow’s Future Today in their counties. The program is designed to fill the weekend food gap for public school students enrolled in free and reduced school lunch programs. The Junior Leaders, with budgets they create, will shop at their local Walmarts to fill backpacks with nutritious foods to be delivered to local schools and food banks.
At the end of each school week, children will receive their nondescript backpacks packed with nutritious food choices for the weekend. Then they’ll return the backpacks the next school day. The program will feed 255 Indiana families for 36 weeks of the school year.
The program has already started in the four counties. Chris Gillam, the 4‑H Youth Development Extension Educator in Elkhart County, reports that the program has already been a big success.
“One of the school counselors wrote to tell me that all of the children were very proud to take home their backpacks for the first time. She was glad to experience the joy and excitement that came with sending the food home to so many families,” Gillam said. “Our Junior Livestock Advisory Board will be purchasing the food, keeping accurate inventory, budgeting their money, and packing up the backpacks each week. They’re thrilled to be a part of this important project that’s making such a huge difference in our community.”
The contribution to the Indiana 4‑H Foundation was made possible through the Walmart Foundation’s Indiana State Giving Program. Through this program, the Walmart Foundation supports organizations that create opportunities for people to live better. The program strives to award grants that have a long-lasting, positive impact on communities across the U.S.
“Walmart is very pleased to support the Indiana 4‑H Foundation and is committed to helping those in need in the communities we serve,” said Jason Wetzel, senior manager of public affairs for Walmart. “Through this grant, we hope that the Indiana 4‑H Foundation will not only reach its goals for educating 4‑H members, but also serve the many students who would otherwise go without food.”
One of the key functions of the Indiana 4‑H Foundation is seeking out and applying for grant opportunities, such as the Walmart Foundation’s, that can help sustain and expand the reach and positive impact of Indiana 4‑H. Your donations to the Indiana 4‑H Foundation help ensure that the Foundation is able to preform this and other vital functions for Indiana 4‑H. Learn more about our grants here.