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Focus on Philanthropy: Family Mentor Foundation Combats Food Insecurity

Lauren Sega Lauren Sega Focus on Philanthropy: Family Mentor Foundation Combats Food Insecurity
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Ten years of teaching middle schoolers will offer an experience unlike any other. For Kari Vernon, it opened her up to the unique struggles of food insecure children, inspiring her to start the Family Mentor Foundation (FMF), a local nonprofit fighting food insecurity in eight schools around Columbus and Worthington.

Food insecurity isn’t just about hunger — a lack of nutrition can deprive school-aged kids of the fuel they need to develop and do well in school. It affects their health and behavior; and it can have severe long-term consequences, including chronic physical and emotional health issues.

Nearly half of Columbus City School students qualify for free lunch, and for many, that lunch is their only full meal of the day. When Friday rolls around, while many students feel the relief of the weekend, others are left to wonder where they’ll get their meals until Monday.

To bridge that gap, FMF’s Buddy Bag program sends needy students home with a sack of kid-friendly and nutritious food every weekend, assembling 11,550 bags in the last year alone. Through a partnership with Clintonville’s Lucky’s Market for their quarterly, day long Impact Day, 10 percent of proceeds will feed the Buddy Bag program, which is needy itself — for donations and volunteers.

Vernon dreamt up the Buddy Bag, a $5 pack containing a supply of nonperishable and individual sized foods, including two microwavable meals, a shelf stable milk, two fruit cups, a vegetable cup, two granola bars, and two oatmeal packets. They’re handed out to roughly 350 kids before every weekend, and once a month they include a jar of peanut butter.

“You get to see the effects of what we’re doing immediately,” Vernon said. “There’s no middle man. We get the food in the hands of our kids, and they’re age appropriate, so the kids can feed themselves. We address the problem with a solution directly with the child itself.”

Between 50 and 70 volunteers hold a regular Gather & Give event, where they portion and pack the bags. Unfortunately, this limited manpower is keeping 1,200 kids on a waiting list for Buddy Bags.

Given that, Vernon said Impact Day will provide an opportunity for more people to learn about childhood food insecurity, FMF, and the Buddy Bag program. Vernon and other staff members will be at Lucky’s Market on Impact Day, giving out information about FMF’s mission and volunteer opportunities, as well as Lucky’s Market’s other program, Bags for Change.

They’re hoping people will participate in some giving opportunities, either by donating (typically $50), choosing to Adopt a Student ($160 feeds a student for an entire year), or volunteering to host a Gather & Give event or deliver Buddy Bags to schools.

Impact Day will be held on August 15 at Lucky’s Market in Clintonville, 2770 N. High St. FMF staff will be there from 4 – 7 p.m.

For more information, visit familymentorfoundation.org.luckys-market

Focus on Philanthropy is a feature series sponsored by Lucky’s Market that highlights Central Ohio nonprofit organizations involved in their Community Impact programming. One day each quarter, they hold an Impact Day, in which 10 percent of that day’s sales are donated to a local nonprofit. They partner with organizations making change within one of their four areas of focus — healthy living, youth and education, resilience, or sustainability, and work together on a project-based outcome. This is an opportunity for the community to come together to support positive investment in Columbus. For more information, follow them on Twitter at @luckysmarket and like Lucky’s Market on Facebook.


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