CHEW and partners step up to help families

Photos by Marlena Sloss/The Herald
Community CHEW (Child Hunger Ending Workshop) Board Member Mary Ramirez, left, and Jasper Middle School Science Teacher Debi Quade organize donated toiletries to hand out to families in need while volunteering with Community CHEW at Jasper Middle School on Tuesday. Community CHEW Director Anna Grant said she knew the COVID-19 pandemic would bring additional hardship to students with food insecurity, so she wanted to organize something to help. If you would like to donate or are in need of food or toiletries, text or call 812-827-8397.


JASPER — Kelly Eckerle of Jasper has enjoyed a front row seat to the kindness of strangers every day since Dubois County schools announced their closures in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Eckerle, who is volunteer coordinator for Community CHEW, has a food drop-off location for the local nonprofit at her home, and she’s had a lot of visitors.

“They’re the real heroes,” Eckerle said.

Community CHEW offers a weekly meal and activity to school-aged children in the area during the summer as a way to combat food insecurity. When schools closed for the next three weeks, the organization knew it had to act. Volunteers set up drop-off locations to collect groceries and began preparations to offer families who sign up for a weekly bag of groceries.

To sign up, parents can contact Director Anna Grant by phone at 812-827-8397 or via email at

Several local businesses have also volunteered to donate items, and community member Matt Lichlyter donated fresh eggs from the chickens he raises. This week, the Huntingburg Subway donated sandwiches, and Dave Fischer of Fischer Farms is donating meat each week. This week, he’s donating hamburger meat.

“Nobody should be going to bed hungry in this county or this area,” Fischer said.

Bags packed with donated food are seen before being handed out to families in need at Jasper Middle School on Tuesday.

CHEW held its first pick up Tuesday night at Jasper Middle School. About 30 families signed up to receive a bag of groceries that included foods kids can make for themselves while their parents are at work, as well as one full meal for the family to make together. This week, that was hamburgers.

CHEW also offered hygiene items such as toothpaste and rolls of toilet paper upon request.

For families who didn’t sign up in time for this week’s pick up but still needed assistance, CHEW provided a smaller bag of groceries with sandwich supplies for the week. CHEW will also deliver groceries today to families who could not make the pick-up time.

“This week showed us how big a need there is in the community at large,” Grant said.

CHEW plans to run the program in the same format for the next two weeks, and families can still sign up. One week, families will get a barbecued pork shoulder from Fischer Farms to take home and eat together. The other week, it will be spaghetti and meatballs.

CHEW is also taking donations of groceries and hygiene items. Drop-off locations in Jasper are 3214 Howard Dr., 350 W. 5th St., 1396 Wheatland Dr. and 1221 W. 6th St. People can also call 812-827-8397 to make a donation.

Should the school closures continue past April 3, Eckerle said CHEW will continue providing groceries, if possible.

Several other restaurants and organizations have stepped up to ensure children have the food they need while schools are closed. Each school corporation is also offering grab-and-go food service during the closure. More information on other resources available can be found in “What’s available: Resources for kids and families,” which was published in Tuesday’s Herald.

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