“When I first began to hear rumors about possible school closures in our county due to COVID-19, I immediately thought of child food insecurity,” said Abby Heidenreich, director of the Orange County Purdue Extension office. “I thought: How can we use our resources in Extension to help solve this urgent community need?”
With a child poverty rate over 21% in Orange County, Heidenreich knew children would have an immediate need for food once schools closed due to COVID-19. She quickly worked with school administrators, churches, food banks and Purdue Extension volunteers to gather and distribute food. The Walmart in Paoli, Indiana, agreed to set up a drop box for donations, and Heidenreich publicized the effort on Facebook. Families in need were able to use a secure Google app to confidentially register for assistance.
"When face-to-face programming stopped, we looked for alternative ways to do what we could with what we had,” said Heidenreich. “4-H is a family that supports each other in good times and in bad, so we quickly began helping with food insecurity in families with school-age children."
Through generous food donations and $500 in monetary support from four individual donors, 83 children and 30 families were supplied with one week worth of groceries including three meals per day, snacks and recipes. Heidenreich creatively assembled ingredients for meals that encouraged family time and teamwork, such as pizza kits.
Heidenreich then followed up with each family afterward to see if they needed another delivery. She continues to promote the delivery service and ask for additional donations as she hopes to do another delivery soon. If there is any extra food, she plans to donate it to local area food pantries.
“The people of Orange County are very resilient. It has been inspiring watching them come together to help others while also working hard to fulfill their own family needs,” added Heidenreich.
While Purdue Extension’s and 4-H Youth Development’s traditional programming methods have changed amid the pandemic, the overall mission to help communities in Indiana remains the same. Heidenreich encourages all to jump in and help if they see a need.
“Purdue Extension has traditionally been here for educational purposes, but now is a great time to show that we are here to help with any community need,” Heidenrich said. “Reach out to us and run with your ideas because any help will be greatly appreciated.”
Purdue Extension wants to help your community thrive. Contact your local Purdue Extension office to learn more about resources for those in need and for opportunities to serve.