When Indiana farmer Jonathan Lawler sees a problem that needs fixing, he takes matters into his own hands. That's how Lawler addressed the hunger problem in his home state when his son came home from school and shared that his classmate had to take food from a food pantry.
"That made no sense to me," Lawler told the Indianapolis Star. I said, 'If he's hungry, then who else is hungry?'"
Realizing the magnitude of the problem and knowing he was equipped to lend a helping hand, Lawler restructured his for-profit farm into Brandywine Creek Farms, a nonprofit organization that strives to donate 500,000 pounds of food to those suffering from hunger in Central Indiana.
Rather than sharing his crop with grocery stores and making it difficult for those without vehicles to get the nutritional foods, Lawler donates it directly to food banks and soup kitchens for those who rely on faith-based aid. Those who require faith-based aid are overqualified for Indiana's Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, but are still unable to secure proper food to lead a healthy lifestyle.
"Obesity and hunger are close neighbors," Lawler said. "People with no access to good food may be overweight, but they are being starved in a way."
Lawler's Brandywine Creek was created under Project 23:22 and aims to influence other farms to likewise donate harvests to those in need, as well as to hire at-risk youth. John Whitaker, the Executive Director of Midwest Food Bank, eloquently explained why organizations such as Lawler's are necessary.
"If everyone fed and helped their neighbors, most of the hunger problem would be solved."
Lawler's next plan is to start a mobile farmers market to target food deserts, which are geographical areas that limit access to nutritional and affordable foods, leaving residents with no choice but to eat fast food regularly. To recruit volunteers to assist with the market, he has partnered with The Landing, a faith-based recovery program for teens.
"A constructive schedule of hands-on learning would be valuable to the youth," The Landing Director Linda Ostewig said. "Giving back builds character and self-esteem."