Nicanor gets help feeding hungry students
NORTH EAST — Volunteers from Nicanor quietly handed out fliers as shoppers entered Walmart Saturday morning, and gratefully received donations when those shoppers emerged later.
The goal of the nine-year-old nonprofit based in Colora was to fill up the beds of two full-size pick up trucks with enough food to feed up to 260 students at 12 Cecil County Public Schools through its Agape Bag program. Michael Flannery, executive director, said these are students who receive free or reduced-price lunches at school, which may be their only meal of the day. Roughly 45 percent of CCPS students qualify for free and reduced meals.
“The teachers tell us stories,” Flannery said. “One child ate soap. Another was stealing food out of desks. Another was saving food from his lunch to eat for dinner.”
The volunteers from Nicanor say they do not concern themselves with why these students do not have food at home, but rather focus on filling backpacks to send home with each for the weekend.
“It’s incredible the amount of children who have nothing to eat on the weekend,” Flannery said, adding some go all weekend in this situation until arriving at school for breakfast on Monday.
Aaron Pack was one of those who handed bags of food to Nicanor’s volunteers who worked to fill up the two pick up trucks donated by Elkton Ford for the cause.
“I just grabbed a bunch of stuff kids would eat,” said the North East father of four.
So did many more, handing grey plastic Walmart bags holding non-perishable, ready-to-eat food and snacks.
“Each backpack gets two meat or pasta items, two soups, two cereal bowls, two fruit desserts and two snacks,” Flannery said. “On long weekends we add another set of meals.”
One of those volunteers handing out fliers was Jean Craig. She encountered mixed reactions to the request for help.
“I had one guy say, ‘Oh, we don’t have that problem,’” she said. “I don’t think people realize.”
However, Craig found others were more receptive.
“One lady said she’d like to help but she doesn’t get her food stamps until next week,” Craig said.
Flannery said the average Cecil County resident may not be aware of the food insecurity crisis in the county. This is the term used to describe people who, for example, may have food one part of the month, but not the next, or who struggle with whether to buy food or pay rent with what little income is available.
According to the Maryland Food Bank, 11.4 percent of residents are considered food insecure. Almost 40 percent of those people make just enough money to be ineligible for assistance programs such as food stamps.
Representing Elkton Ford, Jessy Newsome was in charge of placing the bags in the beds of the pick up trucks, which eventually were completely filled.
“If I wasn’t working I’d probably be here any way, volunteering,” Newsome said.
To volunteer, make a donation, or get help with food contact Flannery at 215-313-7271.
In front of Walmart in North East Saturday, volunteers from Nicanor filled the beds of two pick up trucks donated by Elkton Ford with ready-to-eat nonperishable food.
Lilly Pack, 10, and her father Aaron Pack donated several bags of food they had just purchased in Walmart in North East Saturday to Nicanor. Aaron said he chose foods kids would like for Nicanor’s weekend feeding program.