Indiana farmer Jonathan Lawler is using his love for farming to help address his state's hunger problem.
Lawler has restructured his for-profit farm into a nonprofit called Brandywine Creek Farms with the goal of donating 500,000 pounds of food to Central Indiana's hungry.
Lawler said the idea for the nonprofit began when one of his sons came home from school one day last fall and told him that a 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?'"
The Greenfield, Indiana, farmer noticed that many of the farmers around him made their own food and what they couldn't grow, they could drive to a nearby grocery store where they can get quality foods.
Someone without a car would have difficulty getting to the store.
In urban areas, the problem is similar.
Food deserts, geographic areas where there is low access to nutritional and affordable foods, leave residents in the area without access to grocery stores and more access to fast food restaurants and dollar stores that don't usually sell a lot of nutritious food.
"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."
So Lawler made the switch after working on his for-profit farm for seven years and began his own, faith-based food aid business.
Lawler sends his harvest to food banks and soup kitchens to help those who rely on food pantries and faith-based aid.
Those who rely on those services don't qualify for Indiana's Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program because they don't meet income requirements, but they still lack proper food.
Lawler started Brandywine Creek under Project 23:22, which encourages other farms to donate harvests to the hungry and hire at-risk youths.
The executive director of Midwest Food Bank, John Whitaker said Lawler's organization is necessary.
"If everyone fed and helped their neighbors, most of the hunger problem would be solved," Whitaker said.
Lawler plans to start a mobile farmers market to target food deserts.
He has partnered with The Landing, a faith-based recovery program for teens, for volunteer labor.
"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."
The business also helps veterans by teaching them how to start their own farms.
"The goal is to serve multiple needs with one operation," Lawler said.
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