In 2018, school cafeterias served nearly 5 billion lunches, with nearly three-quarters of the lunches free or at a reduced price (ers.usda.gov). For many of these children, school meals may be the only meals they eat. The Weekend Backpack Program and Tanager Takeout are efforts to reduce childhood hunger in Vermillion and increase family food security by sending home extra food with children and youth.
Since January of 2009, the Welcome Table, a 501(c)(3) organization, has helped ensure children and youth in Vermillion have enough to eat. The Welcome Table has now given children the opportunity to have more food over the weekends through the Weekend Backpack Program and Tanager Takeout. Founded by John Lushbough, the organizations are run entirely by community volunteers, and currently serves children and youth in six local schools including the Head Start programs, Austin Elementary, Jolley Elementary, Vermillion Middle School, Vermillion High School, and St. Agnes. During the 2018 to 2019 academic year, more than 150 weekend backpacks were delivered each week while Tanager Takeout served over 90 children each week — all items children received are healthy and easy-to-prepare items to eat over the weekend. The Welcome Table and Tanager Takeout extends through the summer months.