Every Friday during the school year, individuals from Day Service at Elkhart push pallets of food from the Food Bank of Northern Indiana through the hallways of Beardsley Elementary.
They pause at certain classrooms, delivering sacks of food for underprivileged students to take home in their backpacks. More than 70 percent of students at Beardsley qualify for free lunches based on their family’s income. Many of those students rely on their meals at Beardsley for their only meals of the day.
Without the bag of food delivered by individuals from ADEC, the students might receive little to no nutrients over the weekend. Each sack is packed with two meal cups, two cereal bowls, two snacks, one milk and one juice — items that are nutritious, shelf-stable and ready-to-eat with little or no cooking.
Volunteers from ADEC also visit Osolo and Eastwood elementary schools, delivering snack packs to dozens of students there who might otherwise go hungry while school is out of session for the weekend.
When they enter the office of each school, the ADEC clients are greeted warmly by office staff and the school social workers, who tell them often what a big difference they are making for the students.
“Attendance is better, their learning is better,” said Marijo Martinec, executive director of the food bank. “[The students] don’t have that anxiety about wondering am I going to eat this weekend or what will I have to eat this weekend.”
Not only do ADEC’s volunteers help the Food Bank of Northern Indiana reach the students who need help the most, they do so discreetly to shield the students from any stigma associated with being hungry or needing food assistance.
The “D” in ADEC stands for “dignity” — we believe the people we serve are entitled to respect and professionalism as their daily needs are met — and the volunteers from ADEC take the word very seriously. They ensure the students at Elkhart Community Schools are afforded the same dignity and respect as they receive from ADEC.
Many times, people with intellectual and developmental disabilities are perceived as the ones in need of service. Who knew those same individuals could turn around and provide such important services to others in need?