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The Gathering of the Queens gives out backpacks of food and books to support Anderson kids

By Thomas Ouellette, IPR News | Published on in Community, Education, Family Issues, Local News
The Gathering of the Queens logo on the inside of the impact center (Thomas Ouellette)

In Anderson, a local organization launched a program this year that provides backpacks filled with food to local children. IPR’s Thomas Ouellette reports on how the Gathering of the Queens are combating local food insecurity.

Marilynn Collier (Ball State PBS)

The idea for the program came after the founder of the Queens, Marilynn Collier, noticed that the community fridge she stocked daily was being emptied in less than two hours, and that kids on their way home from school were going to be missing out.

The latest national Kids Count data shows child food insecurity in Madison County is getting better, but it’s still above the state average.  More than 16 percent of Madison County children don’t have access to enough food to meet their needs. The city of Anderson is also recognized as a food desert, meaning it can be difficult or sometimes impossible for individuals to get groceries and other necessities without transportation.

Read More: Kids Count data: Indiana children see improvements in overall wellness

Now on most Thursday afternoons from 4-6 PM, kids can visit the Anderson Impact Center and get their own personal backpack filled to the brim with nutritious foods.

Collier says that’s not all there is to the program.  She wants the kids to know the Gathering of Queens is a community that cares about them.

“They’ll be able to eat and they’ll be able to have that relationship building so they can remember people who cared about them like I remember people who cared about me,” said Collier.

In addition to food, the backpacks also come with books and reading incentives to help bridge educational gaps over summer break.

The books will include a book mark that will receive a hole punch for every book that the child reads. Collier says that after earning so many punches, the children will be allowed to go into the food pantry with a bag and fill it up with whatever they want. 

The program will become a main stay of the Gathering of the Queens with no plans to stop once school starts again.

Read More: Food banks see same food shortages, inflation, and gas prices that clients see

Collier says that the Queens help more than 2,100 families every month.

She is also looking to expand the charitable work of the Queens even further by providing transportation to elderly and disabled members of the community.

Thomas Ouellette is our reporter and producer.  Contact him at thomas.ouellette@bsu.edu.