October 12, 2012

Logan lunch program gets $50k grant

by Amie Sites and Caitlin Huston

Note: This article in its original form incorrecly reported who would be involved in choosing the recipient of the grant. We regret the error.

Logansport received $50,000 from Walmart through the company’s “Fighting Hunger Together Golden Spark” promotion, the company announced yesterday.

The promotion is Walmart’s fall initiative to deliver up to 53 million meals and give consumers a chance to win one of 40 “Golden Sparks” valued at $50,000, a press release stated.

The promotion fits in with Walmart’s larger initiative to target child hunger. Winners of “Golden Sparks” can choose a community to receive funding to start or expand a backpack program that provides meals to children during weekends when they do not have access to free and reduced-price meals.

Larry Whitlow, Walmart market manager, said he was pleased that Logansport won one of the “Golden Sparks” when 3,854 Walmart stores were a part of the promotion.

Walmart will choose what program will get the money and the grant will be distributed by the end of October, Whitlow said.

Walmart is giving the gift, he explained, but Feeding America will be dispersing the gift.

“I was hoping that it would happen, but I wouldn’t say that I expected it,” Whitlow said. “It makes me feel very proud to work for an organization that thinks beyond themselves and works for the community.”

Whitlow said that the Logansport Walmart has given smaller philanthropic gifts in the past but they were not as large as the $50,000. He said that they give $400,000 each year, within the state of Indiana, to Feeding America.

“I’m very happy to hear that we are going to be able to give $50,000 to the programs to continue,” Whitlow said. “That money will provide a lot of meals.”

Logansport has an existing program called The Backpack Program. A co-coordinator of the program, Chris Hess, Fairview Elementary principal, helped start the program with Fairview and Columbia elementary schools four years ago, and recently added Franklin and Landis.

The program is available free to students in first and second grade and distribution usually runs November through April. Food includes canned meals, fruit, canned vegetables, granola bars and oatmeal.

Volunteers pack the bags on Thursday, then bags are distributed for children to take home on Friday.

“There’s so much food insecurity out there right now,” Hess said. “This (money) can help sustain some families and help provide nourishment for when kids aren’t at school.”

Hess said about 75 kids are involved in the program at each of the four schools.

Many people signed up online and filled out forms so that Logansport could win, said Hess, and Amy Clem, a Franklin Elementary teacher, had her name drawn.

“With this grant we can do several things, extend the program to several grade levels and extend the time that we can send this food home,” Hess said. “It’s a huge blessing.”

United Way of Cass County, which initially provided $25,000 in seed money for the pilot program, has worked to promote awareness and assist in fundraising, executive director Joyce Mayhill said.

“The program previously had to make cuts because of funding,” Mayhill said. “This will help them expand the program and stop those cuts.”