Don’t Go Hungry
Fishers Youth Assistance Program Helps Feed Kids In Need Through Summer Meals Program
Writer: Josh Brown
Photography provided by Brian Brosmer & FYAP
More kids than you might think go hungry each summer in Fishers, but one organization is changing that. The Fishers Youth Assistance Program (FYAP) started in 2014 and has been supporting local families and youth through programs like family education, tutoring, mentoring, camps and more.
More than 11 percent of kids in the Hamilton Southeastern School District are on free or reduced lunch. Last year, a group involved with local food banks, churches and the school system began brainstorming how to provide food to those kids in the summer that were in need with school out.
The Summer Meals Program was born and quickly became a program offered by the FYAP.
“That almost 12 percent does not sound like a lot, but that is still 3,400 kids in the HSE School District,” says Lynda Carlino, FYAP Board Member and head of this year’s Summer Meals Program. “Once May hits and school is out, those kids get nothing. That group, last year, thought, ‘Well that is really scary. What happens to these kids during the summer?’”
There was clearly a need. Last year, the first Summer Meals Program served breakfast and lunch to about 165 students, which comes out to 12,000 meals served. After the success and turnout for the first program, Carlino and the FYAP has its sights set on an even higher goal this summer. The group is aiming to serve about 36,000 meals to 400 students in the 9-week program beginning June 4-July 23.
So, how does the Summer Meals Program work and how can you help? Each week the FYAP committee for the Summer Meals Program gets together and puts orders in for ingredients and food. They work closely with the HSE Schools dietician, who comes up with a menu for the children.
“The dietician puts together a menu of things that the kids can make themselves,” Carlino says. “Things like macaroni and cheese, sandwiches, spaghetti, cereal and more. For each child each week we put together a bag for the week of groceries that they need to go along with that menu.”
Aside from monetary donations, which are always welcome and appreciated, Carlino says a critical need for the Summer Meals Program is simply volunteers. Volunteers are needed throughout the summer to pack all the meal bags for the children and to meet on Mondays to deliver the bags to the kids and their families.
This year, the FYAP will be distributing the Summer Meals bags every Monday at Fishers Junior High School between 1:30-7:30 p.m. and parents who have signed up for the program will be able to come during that time to get food for their kids.
“People want to help, which is great,” Carlino says. “We will need about 40 people each Monday starting at 8:30 a.m. to get things set up all the way to shifts of people from 1:30 to 7:30 p.m. when we will be handing out the bags.”
Carlino, who recently retired as the Executive Director of the Southeastern Program of Recreational Team Sports (S.P.O.R.T.S.), was approached by Fishers Deputy Mayor Leah McGrath about joining the FYAP board and helping out with the Summer Meals Program. Despite being barley a month into her retirement, Carlino says the opportunity to serve and help others through the program was too enticing.
“It is a lot of work, but it is a really amazing program for the community,” Carlino says.
The community response to the Summer Meals Program has already been overwhelming as local businesses and parents have jumped in to help out.
“Most people, when I talk to them about this program, are shocked and surprised,” Carlino says. “No one stops to think that in a community like Fishers there are still some people who are struggling. The second response from people is, ‘How can I help?’”
Serving 36,000 meals sounds like a daunting task, and, according to Carlino, the costs for each meal comes out to $1.85 or $66,600 total. It is a big number, but through the help of donations from local businesses and those in the community, Carlino says it is a reachable goal.
One event that is an extension of the FYAP is Pack the Cruiser, which comes up June 2 at all Kroger stores in Hamilton County. Those who come out to the event are given a grocery list of needs for the Summer Meals Program and are asked to make donations for those items. Fishers Police Department cruisers are then literally packed full with the groceries and those donations go back into the Summer Meals Program. Last year, the first Pack the Cruiser event filled nine cruisers up.
“Much of that $66,000 goal we are hoping to get donated through events like Pack the Cruiser,” Carlino says. “Even families just asking us how they can help. They want to teach their kids about sharing and giving back, and they can do that by taking them shopping together and picking out those donated grocery items to give. Families know these items are then going to kids who need it and might be struggling a little bit.”
For those looking to donate or volunteer, visit youthassistance.org/fishers for more information. A sign-up sheet will become available on the website starting in mid-May for those interested in volunteering to cover shifts on Mondays.
“It is all about our kids,” Carlino says. “Anything we, as adults, can do to give our kids a step up in life, we should do it. Life is hard enough as it is. Anytime that a child needs help, I believe we should respond and help in any way that we can.”