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Gleaners attacks child hunger in Indiana with 2 programs

Hundreds of boxes are stacked on pallets at the Gleaners Food Bank of Indiana distribution center on the west side of Indianapolis.

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (WTHR) — Hundreds of boxes are stacked on pallets at the Gleaners Food Bank of Indiana distribution center on the west side of Indianapolis. Each box contains eight bags, BackSacks they're called, filled with food items sent home on weekends in the backpacks of about 7,500 students at 248 schools throughout central, eastern and southern Indiana.

Items found in the BackSacks given to hungry kids. (WTHR, Rich Nye)

The sacks contain a bag of snack crackers, a squeezable tube of peanut butter, two protein bars, pudding cup, two cans of pasta and tomato sauce and a juice box.

"All shelf-stable, it's containers that children can open themselves,” said Gleaners Food Bank of Indiana President & CEO John Elliott. “No preparation required in case there's not an adult on hand who will be responsible for feeding that child. They can take care of themselves."

Gleaners also supports 57 school-based pantries in 21 counties. Those pantries give families access to fresh produce, frozen meat and other grocery items to make healthy meals, at no cost to the school or to students.

"So, we get a lot more coverage in terms of availability to families and neighborhood impact,” said Elliott. “The per meal cost for the whole family being fed is lower than the BackSacks cost per student, so a preferable program in terms of closing the meal gap.”

More than half of the school-based pantries are open year-round and more than half serve anyone in the neighborhood, not just the school population.

"Children are hungry 365 days a year,” said Elliott. “Here we are in the holiday season very mindful of families and children who need help. They're not in school now. "

Gleaners hopes to add more school-based pantries, but only with sustainable sponsorship. Supporting a pantry costs about $16,000 a year.

Elliott says more than half of contributions to Gleaners come from individuals, not businesses. You can give here.

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