PIQUA — Something that many of us take for granted as always being available in abundance is a luxury to others who literally hunger for more.
Last year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service, an estimated one in eight Americans were food-insecure. That’s the equivalent of 42 million people, including 13 million children.
Food insecurity, as defined by the USDA, is “a lack of consistent access to enough food for an active, healthy lifestyle.“
There is no single face of food insecurity; it transcends race, age and geography, impacting communities across the country — including right here in Piqua. In an effort to be part of the solution, the Piqua Munch Bunch program tries to help fill in the gaps when children don’t get enough to eat.
“Some kids have absolutely nothing to eat when they’re not in school, and others have very little,” Kathy Bramlette, who coordinates the volunteer-run program, said.
Designed to help feed students in grades K-6 who are food-insecure over the weekend, Munch Bunch began about 10 years ago, with Bramlette taking the helm five years ago at the request of her pastor at Piqua’s United Pentecostal Church.
“He came to me a couple days after I got married and said, ‘I’ve got something for you to do when you get back from your honeymoon,’” Bramlette recalled with a chuckle. “As soon as I learned about it and realized how much of a need was there, I just couldn’t say no.”
School counselors, teachers and principals alert Munch Bunch about children in need and in some cases, parents themselves contact Bramlette for help. “It’s all anonymous,” Bramlette noted. “That way, there’s nobody being embarrassed.”
When Bramlette came on board, volunteers only needed to pack about 77 bags a week. “Now, we’re up to 211 that we just delivered on Nov. 15,” she said. “We went up 36 in just one month.”
Volunteers gather once a month on a Tuesday to pack a month’s worth of food in each bag, including such items as ramen noodles, individual pudding cups, individual macaroni and cheese cups, oatmeal, granola or cereal bars, fruit snacks, and peanut butter crackers.
“We can’t give them all we want to, like ravioli, peanut butter and soups — things that would keep them full,” Bramlette lamented.
Munch Bunch is funded by donations from local organizations, churches and community members. As deeply as this generosity is appreciated, it’s not enough to keep the program running, especially crucial with holiday school breaks coming up.
“We’re grateful for all the help, all the donations, all the volunteers. We couldn’t do it without the community. But we barely have enough funding to finish the year,” Bramlette said, adding that it takes about $10,000 a year to fund Munch Bunch.
Anyone who would like to get involved with Munch Bunch, whether by volunteering or donating, is eagerly welcomed. Bramlette can be contacted by phone at (937) 414-2811 or through the program’s Facebook page. In addition, donations like the aforementioned food items can be dropped off at any of three locations:
• Bramlette’s home at 3145 Sioux Drive, Piqua, in the evening (after 6 p.m.)
• Classic Metal Roofing Systems, 9234 Country Club Road, Piqua, between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday-Friday
• Piqua’s United Pentecostal Church, 651 W. Ash St., Piqua
“We’ve gotten a great response to the program, a lot more than I expected,” Bramlette said. “I’m really discovering that the community is really giving.”
Reach Belinda M. Paschal at (937) 451-3341 or firstname.lastname@example.org