A coalition of school and nonprofit groups in Greenup County wants to spread the message hunger is a real problem in northeastern Kentucky.
It’s doing so via the fourth annual Filled With Hope hunger and homelessness awareness campaign, which also is a food drive to fill area food pantries.
Greenup County ranks fourth in food insecurity, which means limited or uncertain availability of adequate food, according to Tammy Steele, director of the McKinney-Vento program in the Greenup County School District. The program primarily coordinates assistance to children who are homeless, living in shared housing, shelters, temporary accommodations such as motels and campgrounds and other substandard housing. Many families who lack adequate housing also lack adequate food.
The campaign comes at a time when pantry stocks are thinning; the last large donation was the postal food drive in the spring, according to Debbie Blevins, director of Helping Hands of Greenup County.
Helping Hands is joined by the Greenup district and the Our Lady of Bellefonte Healthy Communities Initiative in the campaign.
The campaign begins shortly before National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week, which is Nov. 10 through 18.
The number needing food assistance in Greenup County has increased, Blevins said. Her records show 3,159 received food help from Helping Hands in 2009 and 4,144 in 2011. “For example, we had four new clients come in yesterday who had never been here before,” she said Tuesday.
Helping Hands also is seeing more younger families affected by layoffs, she said.
The campaign includes a food drive that in addition to restocking the shelves at Helping Hands will bring food for the brown bag program in the Greenup schools.
That program sends food home for the weekend with children who don’t have enough to eat.
The coalition hopes to enlist churches, civic groups, workplaces and others to fill bags and bring them to Helping Hands. Organizers have printed 1,250 grocery-sized bags and are ready to hand them out.
Once groups fill bags they may return them to dropoff points at Helping Hands on Main Street in Greenup or the Greenup County Board of Education at 45 Musketeer Drive in Lloyd.
The food may be dropped off beginning Nov. 12; the campaign is focusing on that week because it will have volunteers to assist. However, the campaign will continue for the rest of the month.
The pantry needs nonperishable food and specific items are particularly needed. They include cereal, cooking oil, corn meal, flour, spaghetti, spaghetti sauce and sugar. Also on the urgent list are canned meats such as corned beef, chicken, ham, deviled ham, tuna, Spam, Treet and Vienna sausages.
Some of the foods needed for the brown bag program are individual serving items such as cracker snacks, granola bars, chips, ramen noodles, microwave meals and juice boxes.
Helping Hands has a full list of foods needed. Food collected will be divided between the two programs.
“Many people in our county go to bed without a proper dinner,” Blevins said. “Food stamps are not enough. We want people to be aware of the need right at our back door.”
For more information about how to participate or donate, call Helping Hands at (606) 473-6916.
MIKE JAMES can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (606) 326-2652.