Feeding America starting in Lake County for students and seniors

BALDWIN — Seniors and students in Lake County who might worry whether there will be enough food to eat this month may not have to worry for much longer thanks to a new state program starting in Baldwin.

It's called the Feeding America program and it will be coming to Lake County on the third Friday of each month starting April 17. It will be divided into two programs, one hosted at 1 p.m. at the St. Ann's Meals Program for seniors, and a second at 3:45 p.m. at Baldwin Community Schools for students and their families.

The program will distribute food parcels of healthy foods like fruits and vegetables and both programs will have enough food for approximately 100 individuals or families. Each parcel will contain about 50 pounds of food.

The program was brought to Lake County largely through the work of Ryan Van Maldegan who, in addition to working with the Feeding America program, is a reserve deputy with the Lake County Sheriff's Department.

"Working with the reserve unit showed me there's a real need here," said Van Maldegan. "Lake County schools have a high percentage of of students on subsidized breakfast or lunch, and the county has a large population of seniors living on a fixed income. This program can go a long way towards helping people here."

Shelly Shaffer, director of the St. Ann's Meals Program, agreed there is most definitely a need in the county. She said having a program to help people get healthy food at no cost to the community is a huge boon.

"We are hoping this will help our seniors get access to groceries they wouldn't be able to to have otherwise," said Shaffer. "It may sound cliche, but there are seniors who have to choose between things like food and their medications. This program may help them make it through the month without having to make those choices."

After meeting casually with Van Maldegan, Baldwin Community Schools Superintendent Stiles Simmons was immediately intrigued by what Feeding America could mean for the community.

"I was introduced to Ryan and he convinced me with his passion and knowledge of the program that I needed to take a close look at this program and take a follow up meeting so we could discuss the details of bringing it to Lake County," said Simmons.

With two truckloads of food coming into Lake County each month, Simmons said the benefits can be far reaching. Not only will this program help people financially, but it will help them live healthier and, in the case of students, help them focus on their studies without having to worry where their next meal is coming from.

"I can't express how happy I am to serve our students and parents in this fashion," said Simmons. "I agree with the mission of Feeding America, which is to eliminate child hunger, and I think our students will be more successful as a result of this program."

The senior program is open to all Lake County residents aged 60 and older. The school program is restricted to students of the Baldwin Community School District and their immediate families. More information can be found by calling Feeding America at (616) 784-3250.