At least 12.5% of Western Massachusetts residents are living below the poverty line, and that number is growing.
This Thanksgiving, hundreds of students throughout Western Massachusetts turned their attention to families in our community that are struggling with food insecurity. After learning about the problem of hunger being faced by more than 135,000 individuals in our area, these motivated students took action to organize food and donation drives at their schools, in order to ensure that all family, friends and neighbors can enjoy a nutritious holiday meal this Thanksgiving.
Students of all ages worked with teachers and school administrators to organize food drives. Some began the drives as early as October, while others lasted only a couple of weeks. The results were outstanding, with over 1,700 pounds of food being collected.
The students at Sunderland Elementary School began their food drive on November 1, and continued for over two weeks, concluding on November 18. In that time, they managed to collect 505 lbs. of non-perishable food, including canned fruits & vegetables, stuffing, soup and beverages. The students delivered the food to The Food Bank the week before Thanksgiving, and received a tour to learn what The Food Bank does and how it supports the community.
Located in Hatfield, Smith Academy’s Community Service Club began their food drive in early October. On November 19, the students delivered an impressive 990 lbs. of canned and dry goods to us for distribution this holiday season. This was a new record for the school, beating their item total from the previous year by over 200 items.
Once the donations are received, our staff and volunteers sorted and packed the food items. It was then delivered and distributed to our regional member agencies, which includes meal sites, shelters, emergency food pantries and other feeding programs that provide the food directly to community members.
Food donations aren’t the only way that some schools supported The Food Bank. The seventh grade class at JFK Middle School in Northampton conducted a fund drive that began on October 30, and ran until November 20. Students spent part of Halloween fundraising door to door, trick-or-treat style. This year, the students raised a total of $1,071. This money will allow us to provide 3,213 meals to individuals throughout our community this holiday season.
Students from Northfield Mount Herman School in Gill, MA conducted a fund drive from Nov. 3–17. In that short time, they were able to raise $1,476. In addition, they visited us for a tour and volunteered their time, helping sort and package food to be distributed to member agencies for the holidays.
The Longmeadow Kids Care Club, a group made up of families from Longmeadow who want to teach their children the value of volunteer work and create fun group opportunities for them to serve others alongside their friends and families, recently volunteered their time. The group was comprised of fourteen people—5 adults and 9 children under the age of 14. They spent a Saturday morning bagging potatoes for distribution through our Brown Bags for Elders program and The Mobile Food Bank program. In approximately ninety minutes of work, the families managed to sort and package nearly 1,200 lbs. of potatoes.
Many other schools in the area have completed drives, or are still continuing their food and donation drives throughout the holidays, including 4-H Science Sleuth’s Club, Springfield College Residence Life Program, University of Massachusetts Isenburg School of Management, and Great Barrington Waldorf High School.
All of these contributions come at a time when they are needed more than ever before. Beginning on November 1, 47 million Americans saw their Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits reduced. These cuts will result in an increased need for food assistance at emergency meal sites across the area that are already stretched meeting sustained high need in wake of the recession. There are still more to come which are certain to have a significant impact on local families facing food insecurity.Comments Off
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