Southern Tier program keeps kids fed over weekends
BINGHAMTON -- For 240 students in Broome County, help comes every Friday in a plastic bag.
Students in four Broome County districts -- Johnson City, Binghamton, Whitney Point and Harpursville -- receive help from the Food Bank of the Southern Tier's BackPack Program, which provides food for the weekend to children who might otherwise go without enough to eat those days.
With the ongoing recession, the Food Bank has seen an increase in requests, said Youth Programs Coordinator Jennifer Bertron, who spoke to Binghamton Rotary Club 64 about the program Tuesday with Deacon Edward Blaine, program director of the Community Hunger Outreach Warehouse. The program is slow to add new slots, however, and has a waiting list.
The "backpack" is a plastic bag filled with food for the child over the weekend, and contains items such as pudding or fruit cups, canned soup, granola bars and tuna or peanut butter. About 10 percent of the food comes from food drives and 20 to 30 percent through the food bank's national network; however, most of it must be purchased in bulk due to the nature of the items. It costs $120 to supply one child with food over the course of the school year -- about 40 bags, she said.
Children are usually identified by a school nurse or social worker, and the program is confidential.
"This has been good for families who have lost jobs," Bertron said.
Blaine also noted that food aid is essential during the winter, when families need to pay for heating.
The food bank is always looking for volunteers -- in groups of about 12 to 15 people -- to put together the food packs on the second Wednesday of every month at the CHOW warehouse, Blaine said. The packing sessions run from 4:30 to 6 p.m.
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