Hunger insecurity doesn’t take a holiday
Did you know: Food insecurity exists in every county in America? Fifty million Americans struggle to put food on the table? More than one in five children are at risk of hunger (for African-American and Latino children, the number is one in three)? And more than 52 percent of Whitehall-Coplay School District students qualify for free or reduced-price lunch?
These are sobering statistics, but, as a community, we can and are coming together to address this hunger epidemic. Many kids do go hungry over the weekend and during the summer when breakfast and lunch are not provided by the school.
Hunger is not these kids’ fault. We are trying very hard to alleviate childhood hunger and help these kids learn during the school year. We also want to give them hope that someone does care about them.
One program supported by Whitehall Area Hunger Initiative — Snack Pack Pals — started modestly three years ago by putting together kid-friendly and easy-to-prepare meals for children suffering from food insecurity in grades kindergarten through eighth grade. In its first year, packs of snacks were sent home with approximately 50 students four times per year — over winter break, Presidents Day weekend, spring break and Memorial Day weekend. This year, the program has grown to helping 182 students (and the number is always rising) every month of the school year.
Thanks to generous donations from our community and from a partnership with Second Harvest Food Bank, Snack Pack Pals has been able to distribute more than 18,000 items of food so far this school year and will distribute another 14,000 items by June. The program has grown to include all grades of the district and serves cyber-schooled and home-schooled students as well.
If you’d like to help sort food donations, stock shelves or assemble the packs, prospective volunteers can contact program coordinator Leah Saliby at SalibyL@whitehallcoplay.org. If you would like to make a food donation, these are the items most needed: 8-ounce shelf-stable milk, juice boxes/pouches, macaroni and cheese (boxes and individual packets), fruit and applesauce cups, Chef Boyardee (cans and microwaveable bowls), small boxes of cereal, fruit snacks, packs of cheese/peanut butter crackers, graham crackers, granola bars, small boxes of raisins and small peanut butter to-go packs. Personal and toiletry items needed are shampoo, conditioner, body wash, soap, deodorant, hair gel, feminine products, shaving cream, lotion and tissues.
Drop-off locations are at Whitehall-Coplay Middle School, Coplay Public Library, Re/Max Unlimited Real Estate, Whitehall Township Public Library and the Whitehall Township Municipal Building.
Susan Falkenstein, from Angel Resources, heavily coupon shops weekly for Snack Pack Pals. She uses the Weis coupons in these two coupon books: the KidStuff coupon savings book and the Save Around the Lehigh Valley fundraiser coupon book. They both have $5 Weis coupons good through December. Susan’s goal is to gather 48 more Weis coupons to donate food every single week to help feed the children. If you have these books and are not going to use the Weis coupons, please share them with us to help fight against hunger. You may follow her donations on Facebook at “Angel Resources.”
You can mail the coupons and/or make a check donation payable to Whitehall Area Hunger Initiative, c/o Shari Noctor, 1080 Schadt Ave., Whitehall, 18052. In the check memo section, please write Snack Pack Pals. The Hunger Initiative is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt corporation, and donations are tax deductible.
Remember, hunger doesn’t take a holiday, even when our students do. Programs like Snack Pack Pals are helping to ease the food insecurity during school breaks, and with the continuing support of this community, its goal is to one day eradicate childhood hunger in the Whitehall-Coplay area. Thank you!
Editor’s note: This column was co-written by Leah Saliby and Shari Noctor.