In Fall 2020, the Rotary Club of Bainbridge Island formed a Working Group of Rotarians and individuals from several Bainbridge non-profit organizations to address youth food insecurity. For almost a year, group members investigated the issue. Surprisingly, we found that over 500 Island youth (ages 0-18) live with food insecurity.
How could we partner with other Island organizations to help? The Working Group formulated a plan partnering with Helpline House. The focus of this partnership was to provide weekly meal bags to all youths for breakfast, lunch, and a snack for every week of school break. Both public and private schools use USDA supplies to provide lunches during the school year….but not during the school breaks.
How did we do it? Rotary used our Club Trust Fund, as well as asking the membership for additional donations, to add fresh food to the weekly meal bags put together by Helpline House. We used a requested food list from Helpline to work with local markets to obtain bulk pricing. All food was purchased and delivered directly to Helpline’s facility on the Island. Students assisted in filling bags. As needed, Rotarians were on call to give extra assistance. In addition, delivery service was provided to families unable to pick up.
And we kept it going. During the 2020-2021 School year, Rotarians donated funds to provide meal bags for Mid Winter Break, Spring Break, and the entire eleven weeks of Summer Break. The Working Group formally became a RCBI Committee and was given a budget to continue. After October, we provided youth meal bags through Helpline House for the two weeks of Winter Break in December of 2021. We are now preparing to supply fresh food for the February 2022 Mid Winter Break.
Another opportunity was presented to our Committee in October. For the holidays, Helpline House solicits donations from churches, non-profits, and food providers for gift cards to give to youths. This is one of the few times during the entire year when children can choose whatever food they wish, not simply be dependent upon the Youth Meal Bags.
We decided to solicit donations from the membership for the cards. Our goal was to raise $3000 for 120 cards worth $25 apiece. We ended up raising more than $4,700. We were not only able to purchase the cards, but have additional funds to provide Helpline with continuing assistance.
We purchased gift cards from local vendors like Island Cool, Westside Pizza, and Starbucks. To make future gift orders easier, Helpline is keeping track where the cards are used most.
The Youth Food Committee will continue its work to provide Weekly Meal Bags during school breaks and take advantage of opportunities like the gift cards.
Yes, it’s Service Above Self, but when you see the smiles on the kids receiving the food, it’s more than worth it.