Fight Catcher, 1 Child at a Time – Shaw Local

Are you ready for some surprising numbers? One in five children will go to sleep tonight in our area without eating. Do I know which child out of five is? Of course not; In fact, I’m extrapolating from Illinois state statistics to clarify our area. Children go to bed hungry and that is not right.

A couple of years ago I wrote a column about a term that was coined to help describe what people are going through regarding hunger. It’s called “food insecurity.” Simply put, food insecurity means you have no idea where your next meal is coming from.

According to the Illinois Issues website, approximately 2 million people in Illinois are food insecure. And about 700,000 of those going hungry are children, living in every county in Illinois: urban, suburban, rural, rich and poor. Efforts have been made in Illinois to better serve the hungry, especially children, through a statewide initiative of the Illinois Commission to End Hunger. But those on the front lines say more needs to be done for the state to prosper.

Terry Nally, director of Feeding Illinois, puts it this way: “A lot of attention is paid to food. It’s more important in our culture, in a high-value way, than it was before. “Here we are this superpower nation on Earth and juxtaposed to that, we have almost 2 million people in our state who go to bed hungry.”

Locally, a group of people have said no under our watch.

In 2013, Crossbridge Community Church started a program called Feed His Children. Their motto is “Fight hunger, one child at a time.” The ministry that began in one school quickly spread throughout the Illinois Valley. The goal is to help others because God has blessed us!

According to the church website, they send supplemental bags of groceries through the school system to families who need a little more twice a month. Chosen families are selected by school administrators. They also provide take-out items for school pantries and snacks for classrooms for children who did not bring one. They have several micro-pantries in the city, where people can take what they need and leave what they can.”

During the school year, Crossbridge collects specific items for specific drives to provide food. For example, church members were recently asked to bring boxes of cereal so the kids could take home and have a decent breakfast.

Several times a year, Crossbridge sponsors “Pack the Pickup.” Because Crossbridge has church campuses in Ottawa and Peru, it selects grocery store locations in those communities. It’s really simple: the church will provide lists of items needed, you go in and purchase the items on that list, and once paid for, you drop them off at a pick-up point outside the store. Easy peezy, lemon squeeze.

We’ve all heard stories of kids going to school early just to eat breakfast at school, many of whom didn’t eat dinner the night before. Your school lunch may be the last meal of the day before going to breakfast early the next day.

Now imagine being a kid and not being excited or looking forward to summer vacation because you’re not sure where your food is coming from. That takes food insecurity to a whole new level.

So as we head into summer, keep an eye out for ways you can help keep the kids fed. Because anything else, well, that’s not right.

Jonathan Freeburg is an Ottawa transplant for more than two decades and a regular contributor to 1430 WCMY Radio. He can be reached at [email protected].