With summer break just around the corner, a lot of families may be dreaming about their family vacation and the fun activities planned while school is out of session. However, for some children in our communities, a break from school also means a break from their main source of nutrition. Many children rely on their school to provide them at least one, sometimes two, of their main meals a day.

Thankfully there are a few significant organizations within the Southern Tier that are able to help children in need by supplying them with meals over breaks. GHS is just one of many supporters of the Food Bank, CHOW, and the Norwich Backpack Program. Each of these organizations carries a huge weight in the fight against food insecurity.

The Food Bank of the Southern Tier offers a BackPack Program to several schools within six local counties. Their mission is to provide students at risk of hunger with a bag of nutritious kid friendly meals each weekend and during some breaks, reducing this gap for children and helping them return to school Monday ready to learn. Hundreds of volunteers each week throughout Binghamton, Elmira, Ithaca, and Johnson City help fill plastic bags with food so that they can be secretly placed in the children’s backpacks without having their peers know of their hardships.

Last year the Community Hunger Outreach Warehouse (CHOW) program was able to collect and distribute approximately 2 million pounds of food through their 84 emergency programs. 20,000 meals went to kids in need and over 50% of the food distributed was fresh and healthy. CHOW has also launched their Fresh Mobile Market, which allows them to travel to food deserted areas to make low-cost and quality fresh food available to residents in Broome and Tioga counties.

With Norwich located right on the outskirts of the Food Bank’s territory, several teachers from the Norwich School district, have come together to help create their very own “BackPack Repack” program for their school district. “There is a real need within our schools to help some of these children stay well-nourished when they have long breaks”, says Jennifer Yanowiak, Perry Brown Teacher. Volunteer teachers and students regularly come together by organizing food drives to gather donations and pack the student’s backpacks with food for long breaks.

GHS has been an eager supporter of each organization to make sure our youth have the support they need to succeed. Our staff member shave bagged food at East Middle School; they have helped in giving monetary donations to CHOW; and even helped to organize a donation center within our Norwich branch to gather non-perishable food items for the Norwich School district’s Backpack program.

For more information regarding these organizations and how you can get involved visit their respective websites below:

Food Bank of the Southern Tier

CHOW – Broome County Council of Churches

Norwich Backpack Program