By: Tracy Dishman—
Muncie, IN—Going to the grocery, eating out at a local restaurant, or grabbing a snack from the cabinet…it’s just something we do. We all have this in common. We eat food.
In tough times, keeping the kitchen stocked with food can be a challenge. It’s a challenge that folks right here in our community are living with. Delaware County is number one in the State of Indiana for food insecure and vulnerable children. One out of every three children is living in poverty…and hungry.
“It is a very sobering statistic,” said Bob Ball, Executive Director of Inside Out Community Development Corporation.
I’ve spent a large part of my last few weeks talking to Bob & Stacy Ball, Lauren Shirey and Board Members of Inside Out Community Development Corporation. Sure, I wake up in the morning and I’m hungry. But, I’ve never been hungry for days because I couldn’t get food. I’ve never been anxious about or had to ask myself, “When am I going to eat next?” Inside Out is not only empowering children and families right here in Delaware County in a compassionate way, they are feeding them…300 + kids every day, consistently and in a healthy way.
Though in their hearts for much longer, Inside Out Community Development Corporation was created in 2011, born out of a vision that came from being founders of Blood-N-Fire Ministries. Blood-N-Fire teaches compassion, living incarnationally sharing food, music, ministry and fellowship.
“We knew that we wanted to continue to do our work of compassion, but increasingly wanted to move towards empowerment,” said Bob Ball. As the adage goes, “When you give a person a fish, you feed them for a day; teach them to fish and you feed them for a lifetime.” Inside Out promotes the bigger idea of empowerment by quoting John Perkins; “By empowering a man, you can help him be the owner of the pond someday.”
“When we looked at this vulnerable population, we asked ourselves, ‘What’s the best way to help?’”, said Ball as he reminisced about the launch of Inside Out. “With the help and support of many public, private and individual donations, we are pleased and proud to present an asset that we call the ‘Community Empowerment Kitchen.’ This is a full service, state-of-the-art, commercial kitchen in our location, 300 N. Madison Street, “The Hub.” The Hub is the home of Inside Out Community Development Corporation and Blood-N-Fire Ministries in Muncie, Indiana.
“Out of The Hub, we have developed our premier flagship program, Fresh Directions. Fresh Directions has served over 130,000 hot meals and healthy snacks, to date, to hungry kids,” states Ball.
The “fresh” in Inside Out’s Fresh Directions Hot Meals Program” speaks not only to the fresh ingredients used in the food and the healthy items on the menu, but describes the energetic and compassionate Program Administrator, Lauren Shirey. “Our meals and snacks are prepared in the Community Empowerment Kitchen and consist of quality proteins, fresh produce, and whole grains. Ingredients are purchased, donated, rescued, and grown by local growers.” “With Dawn Wooten (Volunteer Host and Kitchen Assistant) and Julie Jarvis (Administrative and Kitchen Assistant) and an incredible team of caring volunteers, over 250 meals and healthy snacks are prepared daily and delivered to a variety of meal sites in the community.”
When the kids come in to these partner locations, they’re “hangry” – hungry and angry – because they don’t have adequate or consistent food. When you’re “hangry”, you don’t respond well to staff or peers because…you’re hungry!
“When children know they’re going to be fed, they have anticipation and an expectation that they can do what they’re being asked to do and they listen better. When children are fed healthy food on a consistent basis, they can focus on their homework or get involved in healthy activities,” said Ms. Shirey.
Lauren told me a story that echoes in my heart, as a storyteller and a mom, every time I’ve fixed dinner for my family over these past few weeks with the Inside Out team. There are children, right here in my home town, that don’t know how to make a sandwich. Let that sink in for just a second. There is so little opportunity for consistent food and consistent adult time in their lives, that no one has shown them how to make a sandwich. To be clear, as Ms. Shirey stated, this isn’t always because the parent doesn’t want to, but sometimes because…they just can’t.
Are you moved to help? Do you want to get involved? Here are some exciting ways in which all of us can help feed the most vulnerable and food insecure kids in our community:
Do you love working in a garden?
Plant a patch in your backyard for Inside Out. Having an abundance of tomatoes or squash and family members don’t want any more? Take it to Inside Out. The Fresh Directions program will use every part of that tomato or strawberry…what can’t be used is composted.
Volunteer: The Inside Out Fresh Directions program serves meals Monday through Friday and need volunteers daily, year around: it’s an afternoon thing during the school year and a morning thing during the summer.
Deliver: Inside Out needs drivers to deliver cambros (Food Storage Containers) and food to our various sites. If you have a vehicle and can drive, you can help deliver hot food and healthy snacks to our partner centers where kids are going to be fed.
Food Rescue: Do you work in a restaurant or other food service industry? Donate the extra at the end of the day. Did you have a baby shower or wedding reception lately and have food left over? Donate it to Fresh Directions.
Financial Support: Inside Out receives reimbursement with some of our program/meal sites, but other areas of our community who have food insecure kids that don’t fit this reimbursement model need financial support from folks in the community. Otherwise, these kids are hungry. You can sponsor a child or Inside Out activity…this makes a big difference.
Last summer, two young boys wandered into a community organization where Inside Out Fresh Directions program delivers meals. A staff member kindly offered to sign the boys up for the summer program. Across the room, the brothers noticed a refrigerator and asked if they could have something to eat. The youngest boy said his tummy hurt from being hungry. “They forgot to feed us yesterday,” said the other brother, “they always forget to feed us.”
The Inside Out and the Fresh Directions program exist to empower, and feed, food insecure children like these two boys.