MATHERVILLE, Ill. — One in six children in the U.S. faces food insecurities, according to Feeding America.
In some cases, kids will leave school for the weekend not knowing where their next meal will come from. Two moms in the Sherrard School District are filling the plates and bellies of dozens of kids every weekend. Their incredible work is the reason they are this week's Pay It Forward award winners.
"Kim and Penny believe as I do that there shouldn't be any hungry children in America," said Stephanie Godke, who nominated Kim DeBlock and Penny Meskan for the Pay It Forward Award. "Nourish to Flourish is a program where we put food for the weekend in the backpacks of children that might ordinarily go hungry."
DeBlock and Meskan are both mothers themselves. Nine years ago, their daughters came home from school and said some of their classmates would go home for the weekend without anything to eat. That's when DeBlock and Meskan got together, and Nourish to Flourish was born.
"Watching (our kids) identify as well saying, 'so and so needs something' or 'I noticed this about someone,' that's really important," Meskan said.
"Whether it be with food to hold them over on the weekend or fresh socks and undies or really just basic things," said DeBlock
Learning that kids were going hungry was an emotional reality these mothers knew they needed to tackle head-on.
"At first, honestly, it broke my heart that there was that need there. But if we can make school that place that they come and a place that they can get that extra nurturing, that maybe they are not getting at home, then we've made school a safer place for them," DeBlock said.
Nourish to Flourish feeds an average of 70 kids every weekend. The need is generally identified when a student confides in a teacher. The food is then packed by the River Bend Food Bank, and DeBlock and Meskan drop meals off at schools. Each school has its own way of delivering the bags of food to students in a discreet way so the students aren't embarrassed.
Meskan and DeBlock asked the district what the biggest need was and washers and dryers were at the top of the list. The pair were able to donate three sets of washers and dryers to the Sherrard School District thanks to a monetary donation made to Nourish to Flourish over the holidays.
"The intention isn't so that students bring their laundry to school ... But you know, someone comes in and their winter coat is filthy and maybe mom just hasn't had the chance to wash it. They can do that for them while they're at school. Or maybe the child falls on the playground, they can get their clothes cleaned," DeBlock said.
Students also taught how to use the machines, like how much detergent to add and which setting on the washer to use.
The washers and dryers will serve a great purpose at the school according to Matherville Intermediate School Principal Jeff Shillinger.
"Having the ability to wash clothes here allows the student to not necessarily be noticed if they're not clean or if they have another need," Shillinger said.
Do you know someone that goes above and beyond for his or her community? News 8 and Ascentra Credit Union would like to help you Pay it Forward to them.
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