News From Terre Haute, Indiana

May 7, 2014

Weight-loss challenge raises food for schools’ weekend backpack program

Lisa Trigg
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — Several Wabash Valley residents have chosen to lose weight so that school children will have more to eat.

The “losers” did that through the Lose A Ton/Give A Ton partnership between the Vigo County YMCA, United Way of the Wabash Valley and the Vigo County School Corp.

On Wednesday, a VCSC truck arrived at the YMCA to be loaded with 1,350 pounds of food that will be provided to hungry school children through a weekend backpack program that sends food home with students.

“The situation we’re finding at the school system is more desperate than it’s ever been,” Superintedent Danny Tanoos said as he helped load the food into the truck. “Fifty-seven percent of our students are on free and reduced [cost] lunch. That’s more than 8,000 of our students relying on the school system for a nutritious breakfast and lunch.”

The weekend backback program allows children who face hunger at home during the weekend to request a Friday take-home bag of food, which includes peanut butter, crackers and other non-perishable items they can consume Saturday and Sunday.

YMCA volunteer Amy Demchak said she has been impressed by the many people in the community who have supported Lose A Ton/Give A Ton, knowing that it makes a difference for a hungry child.

“It’s great seeing it in action, because I’ve volunteered in the schools on Fridays,” Demchak said, “and I’ve seen the kids stop by the office on their way home to pick up that bag of food.”

This is the second year for the program, which YMCA branch director Eleanor Ramseier said is seeing increased support in the community.

“We feel both years have been successful, and we will do it again next year,” Ramseier said. “We will let the local companies and our members know in November that we will start it at the first of the year, so they can get people signed up and ready, and then it will end at spring break.”

The timing of the program coincides with a lot of New Year’s resolutions to lose some extra pounds, she points out.

Among the program participants were Booke Hickey of Clabber Girl and Shawn Stoll of Hamilton Center.

“It’s such a great cause,” Stoll said. “It helps our employees get motivated to lose weight. It’s been great working with Eleanor and to be able to team up with the community to support kids who don’t have enough food.”

The Hamilton Center group lost a combined 68.2 pounds, but donated 100 pounds of food.

Hickey said that the combined weight loss at Clabber Girl was 77.8 pounds, and they donated $200 to the program.

“Everyone was very motivated about it and energetic,” she said of those in the program. “We supported each other, and it was fun.”

While 1,350 pounds of food sounds like a lot — and it looked like a lot while it was being loaded into the truck — the reality is that the food will be distributed and used up before the end of the school year.

Anyone wanting to contribute to the backpack program can contact any Vigo County school to make a donation, or can call the Vigo County YMCA at 812-232-8446 or the United Way of the Wabash Valley at 812-235-6287.

Reporter Lisa Trigg can be reached at 812-231-4254 or lisa.trigg@tribstar.com. Follow her on Twitter @TribStarLisa.