John Mabry is development director for the Food Bank of Lincoln which serves 16 counties in southeast Nebraska. Mabry says he’s grateful for partnering organizations that help provide food support.
“The food insecurity rate in Gage County is 12.5% of the population, meaning those folks who aren’t really sure how or when they’re going to get their next meal, usually because of economic hardship,” Mabry says. “Of that total, 890 are kiddos under the age of 18.”
As Nebraskans share their Christmas meals, Gage County Supervisor Matt Bauman reminds, many of our neighbors frequently don’t have enough to eat, especially the children.
“The amount of school districts and the percentage of free and reduced lunches is just astronomical,” Bauman says. “Some districts are over 80% free and reduced and that spills over outside of the school day. When there’s a holiday and the kids are out of school, the ability to feed those children. Sometimes, that’s their best meal of the day, sometimes their only meal of the day.”
The Food Bank of Lincoln offers a backpack program for kids. They’re able to take home a backpack filled with food to last them through the weekend, since they’re away from school and the provided lunches.
Mabry says it’s a big task ahead, but the Food Bank is up for it.
“Feeding America is our parent organization and Feeding America has 200-some food banks throughout the country,” Mabry says. “The only other Feeding America food bank in the state is the Omaha Food Bank for the Heartland. We’ve been assigned 16 counties.”
Mabry says the Lincoln-based agency holds monthly food distribution events in each of those 16 counties and also has the backpack program for kids in each county.
He says it costs about $250 to provide a backpack for a student for an entire year. It’s estimated 100 backpacks filled with food go home every week. Local organizations prepare and distribute the backpacks while the Food Bank, which buys food in bulk, supplies the contents.
By Doug Kennedy, KWBE, Beatrice