It was brought to my attention in November 2013 that 30 students at a local charter school attend classes and go home hungry every day. Upon a little investigation I learned that over 17,000 children in Montgomery County are at risk to hunger and in the three counties served by the Dayton Food Bank the number is an alarming 39,000. This has been a problem for decades that no one has been willing to tackle because of the enormity of the problem. Bureaucrats put a dollar value to the problem and then declare there is no money to solve it. However, the way I view problems is different. If I can solve this issue for 30 students with little or no money, then I can solve it for 100 students. After that, if the process is duplicatable it can be solved for 1000 students and possibly 5000. If you would like to put a $$ figure to the problem it would be around $6.2 million a year. That is based on $1.00 a day X 17,000 children X 365 days. I suspect our school districts are willing to pay more than that in overtime to extend teaching hours to get kids to a 3rd grade reading standard. No amount of money spent on education will solve the problem of test scores unless you actually address the problems that distract a child from wanting to learn. If I were in 1st grade and knew that after lunch I would not eat anything for another 20 hours (breakfast at school) then I wouldn’t be concerned about learning. I would be concerned about survival. So my challenge is this. How do I get 30 meals a day to 30 students at one school and then another 53 meals to students at two additional locations.
I could sit down and have committee meetings with all the organizations in place that are supposed to deal with this. We could plan a program over three years designed to solve the problem, then implement it to have it fail. Let me point this out. We do an excellent job feeding the homeless by the way. What we fail to do is feed the hungry. The children in our schools are hungry. They can’t go to the soup kitchens and the food pantries though. They have to go to school. The homeless are mobile and know where to go every day to get a meal.
Along this journey I have learned that some of our local churches own acres of land that can be used to grow food. Some of our churches and kitchens cook food already for the homeless and needy and there are other churches that raise money and send it to missions in South America where they are dealing with the same issues that we need to solve here. We have churches with commercial grade kitchens that are underutilized and we have a growing population of immigrants who could enterprise themselves if they had access to some of these resources. We have another problem in Ohio. The average age of a farmer is 58 years old. We also have restaurants and grocery stores that throw away food every day because they have no room to refrigerate it. Some give their excess to feed the homeless, not the hungry.
Everyone that I have talked to about this issue agrees that we need to focus on hungry kids first and they are supportive of my effort.
I understand that Central State University is interested in developing this concept and taking it to a much higher level. If the pilot works, many problems will have been solved. This now moves on to a relationship between the university, the church and the school and government can stay out of the equation. Which is how it should be. However, it has been 8 years since I was mayor and the problem has not been solved. Time to move on and solve this problem …