SHARON, Pa. (WKBN) – The problem of chronic hunger is getting worse in the Valley. Especially for kids.
School district officials tell WKBN that more kids need free and reduced lunches every year — which shows that more kids are going hungry when they’re not in school.
Community Food Warehouse of Mercer County is ramping up its efforts to fight the problem.
“We have kids who cry because they don’t know when they’re going to get fed,” Tresa Templeton, business manager of Sharon City Schools, said.
During the week, underprivileged kids can get free meals at school. But what about when the weekend comes?
“Sometimes those children don’t eat from Friday at lunchtime until Monday morning at breakfast back at school,” said MiMi Prada of Community Food Warehouse.
That’s where the Backpack Program at Mercer County Food Warehouse comes in. This is their eighth year running the program, as they’ve been operating since 2009.
“It’s a burden released from them,” Prada said. “They know where their food is coming from on the weekend.”
Volunteers filled 500 bags on Tuesday, which will be going right to kids in eight Mercer County school districts this weekend: Sharon, Sharpsville, West Middlesex, Reynolds, Greenville, Lakeview, New Wilmington and Commodore Perry.
“We’re one of the poorest districts in the state,” Templeton said. “Our kids need this, so we thank everybody who has helped.”
The Backpack Program helps more and more kids every year.
On Tuesday, it celebrated an $88,000 grant from Walmart. Employees from the Hermitage store volunteered to fill bags.
“Always happy to get out of the store, get out of the community and actually have a little fun and help out along the way,” said Mark Falesnick, Walmart’s store manager.
“We know where our next meal is coming from,” Prada said. “A child who has no control over that doesn’t know.”
The money from Walmart is enough to feed almost 400 kids in Mercer County every weekend for a school year. Also, it costs $225 to feed one child on the weekends through the school year.
But that just takes a small bite of the problem.
The Food Warehouse says they’re always looking for more donors and volunteers, especially as we move closer to the holidays.
If you are interested in donating your time to pack or if you or your organization would like to sponsor children for the Backpack Program, contact Lauren Beran (program & volunteer coordinator) at 724-981-0353.
If you or your organization is specifically interested in sponsoring a child/children in the Sharon School District, make checks payable to: Sharon Backpack Food Program and mail to:
Sharon Backpack Food Program
First Presbyterian Church of Sharon
600 E. State St. #1
Sharon, PA 16146