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Food Security Summit kicks off Share the Bounty Week

A little over a year ago, Adrianne Penner and her coworkers at the Boys & Girls Club of Goshen began to notice some worrying trends among the children in their care.

More and more were staying for hot dinners provided by the club, presumably because the grocery budget was so tight at home. Some kids seemed unsure of how to use a knife and fork, while others were so accustomed to eating in front of the television they were uncomfortable holding a conversation at dinner.

“We started realizing that many of our kids had no idea how to enjoy a meal,” Penner said. “And that was in part because of the foods they were eating and in part because of the environment in which they were eating it.”

“We started realizing that many of our kids had no idea how to enjoy a meal.”

This realization inspired a new healthy lifestyles initiative at the Goshen club, which over the past year has incorporated cooking and nutrition classes, field trips to gardens and restaurants and even an ‘Iron Chef’ competition into its regular offerings.

During this effort, Penner was introduced to local farmers and members of the Goshen Farmer’s Market board, many of whom were instrumental in organizing the second annual Share the Bounty Week. So when she was asked to serve as a keynote speaker at the Food Security Summit, which will kick off Share the Bounty Week this Sunday, she didn’t have to think twice.

“It’s been really a phenomenal partnership over the last year, and the people who have been part of Share the Bounty, much of our success is thanks to them,” Penner said. “So when they asked me to speak at the summit, it was more along the lines of ‘We’ve been walking with you for a year, you’ve come a long way, can you come and help tell the story?”

The summit, which will be held at River Oaks Community Church from 2 to 5:30 p.m., will begin with remarks from Penner and several other speakers. However, Natasha Weisenbeck, the co-coordinator of Church Community Services’ Seed to Feed program, said the “cafe conversation” during the second half of the summit is a critical part of the week’s events. 

“The idea is to get people talking, to get them thinking more critically about where they fit into this in their own community,” Weisenbeck said. “And that’s one reason why it’s placed at the beginning of Share the Bounty Week, rather than at the end. Most people can start thinking about these things and start having these conversations, and then attend different events throughout the week and reflect on that.”

Share the Bounty Week Events

Weisenbeck said this year’s Share the Bounty events have expanded from a focus on getting healthy food to disadvantaged Goshen residents to a full conversation about how food security and food literacy might be improved across Elkhart County. 

“Last year was more focused on how do we get access to healthy food in general, now we’re looking more at who has access to food and how do we make it more available,” Weisenbeck said. 

The week’s events include two showings of A Place at the Tablea 2013 documentary that explores the causes of food insecurity in the United States and the impact it has on those who go hungry.

On Monday, Nov. 17, the Boys & Girls Club in Goshen will be holding an information session to highlight its efforts to improve food literacy among children, and on Thursday, Nov. 20, Weisenbeck will present information about the Seed to Feed program during a potluck dinner at Creekside Church of the Brethren. The week’s events conclude with the Harvest Celebration at the Goshen Farmer’s Market on Saturday morning.

Weisenbeck said Share the Bounty events were intentionally scheduled for the week before Thanksgiving, as many people are particularly receptive to charitable efforts and the needs of others at this time of year.

“At this point in time, people start thinking about a lot of food and what it means to give and what it means to have bounty,” Weisenbeck said. “So this idea of ’sharing the bounty’ brings it beyond just our families and beyond ourselves and beyond our pocket books to this idea of sharing what we have within our community.”

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