My younger brother and I would take turns staying at grandmas’ houses so my mom and dad could work extra shifts. We never went to bed hungry.
Then, I turned 16, and my parents divorced. Money became tight and food, less healthy. My siblings and I qualified for lunch assistance, and we all tried to keep our struggles secret. We weren’t the only students living on little, but I remember noticing, more and more, how much food others threw away. Perceptive friends offered me food, but teachers told us it was against the rules.
In fall 2017, I enrolled in a Ball State Journalism immersive class to capture stories and recipes of East Central Indiana. I had no idea it would take me back to those days, as a hungry, uncertain child, but it did, and I am so thankful.
Our research unearthed Food Rescue, a national nonprofit that works with more than 200 organizations and 500 schools to collect and redistribute unwanted and unwrapped items. Since its creation in 2017, the nonprofit has rescued roughly 1 million meals each year from the 40 percent of food we waste.
At the organization’s 10-year celebration, I met John Williamson, the organization’s president and CEO, and learned he graduated from Ball State. It empowered me to know someone who maybe sat in these same seats, is making a lasting impact on the lives of boy and girls like me.
The best part: Williamson is driven to eradicate the perception that people are “less than” if they accept the generosity of others. Food Rescue, based in Carmel, Indiana, encourages students—no matter their situation—to take from the collection. The organization’s focus on education helps young minds understand that enjoying rescued food lessens our impact on the environment. We throw away 1 billion unwrapped and unpeeled food items each year in the United States.
My experience with hunger and need was short-lived, but life doesn’t settle down for everyone, and kids are often caught in the middle. One in six people are still food insecure in the United States, and more than 300,000 Hoosier kids don’t know where their next meal is coming from, according to Food Rescue.
I hope Food Rescue and other organizations continue to change attitudes.
I share my story to give a face to food insecurity in our region and to encourage my neighbors to not judge and to be part of the solution. This battle shouldn’t be fought alone. Together, we can make sure no one goes hungry.