Backpack program feeds hundreds of hungry kids

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Students in need are getting an early Christmas present: meals to last two weekends during winter break.

Wednesday, second grader at Blacklick Valley Elementary, Navea, was handed a bag of food, toiletries and treats.

This is the first year Blacklick Valley has been in the Cambria County Backpack Project. They feed 24 kids in need each weekend.

“Our district, we need it, our community needs it, our kids need it,” said Maribeth Dorsch, the Blacklick Valley Elementary School counselor.

This week, each student will get two bags with food, toiletries and special treats to tide them over during the entire winter break: December 22 – January 2.

“That’s a lot of days where I know they’re not getting their breakfast at school or their lunch at school. So at least I know they’ll have that in their pantry and have that food over the winter break,” said Dorsch.

Volunteers were busy packing twice the amount of food this week: more than 600 bags to feed about 320 kids across Cambria County.

“By providing them food we’re able to close the gap of childhood hunger and educational success.” Natalie Kauffman, Coordinator, Cambria County Backpack Project.

Hard work for a worthwhile cause.

“I think that it’s a lot more than just giving kids an apple or milk. It gives kids a sense of stability that they may not have at home,” said Trina Mauersberg, a volunteer and Johnstown High School senior.

Another volunteer and Johnstown High School senior, Kate Csehoski, said she knows someone who’s benefited from the program.

“They would have meals that weekend not just having to rely on food stamps which was nice,” said Csehoski.

The program always needs a steady supply of donations. They expect 30 more students to join in the spring.

“Since providing those meals, they don’t seem as tired or as hungry or eager to get to lunch, so that’s nice. They can be here learning instead of wondering about when they’re going to get to eat,” Dorsch said.

If you would like to donate food or money, you can send donations to the Learning Lamp, located at 2025 Bedford Street, Johnstown, PA 15904.

For more information call: (814) 262-0732 or visit the program’s Facebook page.

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