Ni­canor gets help feed­ing hun­gry stu­dents

Cecil Whig - - LOCAL - By JANE BELLMYER jbellmyer@ce­cil­whig.com

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.

CE­CIL WHIG PHOTO BY JANE BELLMYER

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.

CE­CIL WHIG PHOTO BY JANE BELLMYER

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.

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