When you hear the name Dare to Care, you most likely think of the food bank that serves 135,000 individuals a year in the Louisville metro area. But Dare to Care is so much more, said Stan Siegwald, Dare to Care’s Director of Strategic Initiatives.
“People think we’re a food pantry, because they know the basic model is we get food from the food industry including retailers, grocers, farmers, manufacturers, and donations, and then we categorize and identify partners to distribute the food and make it accessible to those who need it, said Stan Siegwald. “But that is just a part of what we do,” he said, “to reach the 1 in 6 families and children in our community that need us.”
One example is Dare to Care’s kitchen production in Butchertown that prepares hot and nutritious dinners five nights a week that go out for the Kids Café’ program – 34 afterschool sites such as Boys and Girls clubs, Metro Park community centers. “That’s 1,500 balanced meals every day being served to kids living in struggling neighborhoods,” said Siegwald.
Julio Anthony, Program Manager for the Kids’ Café and afterschool program at St. Vincent De Paul, said the three-year partnership with Dare to Care has been critical for the St. Vincent De Paul families living on their campus as well as the afterschool program which serves neighborhood children. “For one, they are guaranteed a hot meal before going to sleep at night,” said Anthony. “I don’t think people in our community know how many people are homeless, how many kids are homeless. I do believe that without them, we wouldn’t be as successful as we are,” he said.
The program serves evening meals Monday through Thursday; and in the summer often Monday through Friday. Anthony said he knows one family of six who frequently express their gratitude for the program. “The fact that it is a well-balanced meal every night with meat and vegetables –both the parents and children are very much appreciative of that,” said Anthony. “They say they are truly blessed.”
As an organization, Dare to Care is keenly aware of the sometimes-hidden vulnerability of children that are hungry in the community. A weekend nutrition program called Backpack Buddy provides food to 42 elementary schools in the metro area, said Siegwald. “The schools identify 50 students most at risk of being hungry over the weekend and discreetly give them kid- friendly nutritional snacks to take home with them, he said.
In addition to food pickup sites such as churches and community centers, Dare to Care takes their food assistance on the road with more than 50 mobile pantry deliveries a month to neighborhoods in high need. “This can be a really effective tool in rural communities as well as in many urban areas, said Siegwald.
“Food insecurity exists in every single zip code in our city, added Jackie Keating, Dare to Care’s Chief Development Officer. Our philosophy is that hunger is a public health issue. Keating said a new pilot program partnering with health care providers makes that connection abundantly clear. “People who are hungry often have poor nutrition and are at greater risk for obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure,” she said. “In fact, the percentage of people getting food assistance who have diabetes compared to the general population; It’s like 50 percent compared to 9 percent,” added Siegwald.
To date, the pilot program is open at three sites, and Dare to Care is in discussion for six to nine more sites to be added. Keating said the program costs more for them, but may prove more effective in identifying people who are most vulnerable.
With the holidays upon us, what does Dare to Care need the most right now from those in the community who want to help? With more than 200 nonprofit partners, Dare to Care holds countless fundraisers every year, and Keating said each and every one of those third-party events is appreciated; but for community giving, simple financial contributions can often be even more helpful.
“One reason is we can’t rely on donations when we are seeking specialized foods appropriate for diabetes or those with high blood pressure, for example. Another reason is scale. For $25, we can buy so much more food than someone who is paying retail, and be far more efficient with our dollars than the consumer can. We can tailor our purchases to food gaps to provide more balanced meals for families. Over a third of what we distribute is fresh fruits and vegetables that we buy,” she said.
“The biggest message we want to give to people is for them to understand the scale of the need, and the nature of this huge effort the community has undertaken to address it,” said Siegwald. “But we need to remember that 1 in 6 people in our community don’t have enough to eat. That’s why we’re still here.
For more information about Dare to Care, click here.