Entering the gymnasium at East Brainerd Church of Christ, volunteers are greeted by rows of tables filled with pre-packaged food items in huge boxes ready to be sorted. Within one hour, all these items will be packed neatly into more than 5,000 snack bags for students in Hamilton County schools who are listed as food insecure.
Among the more than 300 church and community volunteers ready to pack, several Girl Scout troops can be spotted in the crowd dressed in their uniforms or matching t-shirts. These troops are prepared to lend a helping hand to make a difference in their community. For one troop in particular, the topic of food insecurity is close to their hearts.
Troop volunteer Anita Kapperman led a troop of girls who decided to address food insecurity in Hamilton County for their Girl Scout Bronze Award. The girls used the money they earned during Girl Scout Cookie season and put it toward providing weekend snack bags to students in need at a local elementary school.
Many students in both elementary and high school rely on the school-provided meals they get during the week; on the weekends, however, they aren’t always guaranteed a adequate meal at home.
As outlined by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), food insecurity is defined in two ways: low food security and very low food security. The students who are being helped by the snack bags fell mostly in the second category that is defined by the USDA as “multiple indications of disrupted eating patterns and reduced food intake.”
According to a study conducted by Feeding America, in Hamilton county there are more than 50,000 people who qualify as food insecure. Second Harvest listed the state of Tennessee has the 14th highest child food insecurity rate at just above 25 percent.
“To think that there were people out there who weren’t as fortunate as we were and that we had the opportunity to do something like this and we had the money and the time,” said Katie, one of the Girl Scouts. “It brought us joy to do something for someone else.”
Every week for about six months Anita would pull up to the girls’ school, call them out of recess and they’d all pack the bags together. As a troop, they packed about 20 bags each week. Anita would then deliver the bags to the elementary school.
“One of the girls told me, ‘I used to not like [being pulled out of recess],’” remembered Anita. “‘But then I realized these kids depended on us.’”
Katie was sad when their project ended, but soon after the girls earned their Bronze Award Anita helped launch a similar program at her church with other members who had also seen the need in Hamilton County and wanted to do something to help. Many of the girls from the troop began volunteering at the church as well.
“You can do bigger things than you think you can,” said Cydney. “[We] started our Bronze Award project during the 2012/13 school year with 14 Girl Scouts in our troop and we were able to help 20 students each week. Since our Bronze Award project ended several years ago, I became very involved when my church began a similar project, and I see our church—and other churches in the area—helping thousands of students and their families each week.”
The girls’ Bronze Award project has long been completed. The girls have been pinned. But this is about more than an award. This is about making the world a better place, starting in their community.