kidsPACK Needs Your Help Giving Local Families Free Meals. Here’s How You Can Help!
by James Coulter
Every weekend, kidsPACK in Lakeland provides free meals to more than 1,700 local children and their families. Not even the current pandemic is stopping them, though it is complicating matters.
The local non-profit organization partners with local schools to identify children who are homeless or food insecure. Every weekend, deliveries are made to give these children at least two nutritious meals for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, with one meal for each day.
During the first week of school closures, and preparing for Spring Break the following week, they worked with local schools to distribute their free meals there. They doubled their regular amount, ensuring that children have enough meals for two weekends, explained Amy Royal, kidsPACK Program Manager.
Normally, kidsPACK purchases groceries from local stores and packs and distributes their meals using Volunteers from 17 local churches and organizations; however, stock-piling by consumers during the pandemic has prevented them from buying in bulk, and the locations where they would pack and distribute their meals have closed due to the COVID-19 crisis.
“The biggest obstacle we are facing right now is getting food,” Royal said. “We are not being able to buy in bulk at this time because of the stock-piling by individuals and families of non-perishable food…[F]ood is flying off the shelves in such a rapid pace that even suppliers cannot keep up with it.”
Due to current circumstances, packaging and deliveries of their meals has been centralized in their Lakeland warehouse location. Special precautions are taken to ensure proper cleanliness and safety. No more than nine volunteers can work in the building at a time. They have to wear gloves, and they cannot show signs of flu symptoms.
Even with these obstacles and challenges, kidsPACK continues to push forward in ensuring that children in need are properly fed. Their success, in spite of such difficulty, has been their preparation and reaction to current events, ensuring that they act accordingly and promptly, Royal said.
“We did not wait,” she said. “In a crisis mode, you cannot wait to see how this is going to happen, so when we figured out that the schools were closing down on the 16th, the morning of the 14th, we started talking to school board members and communicating to our packing site and schools to form a communication path, and I think that has helped us keep successful.”
Two things they need most right now are food and volunteers. They are seeking food donations to provide in their free meals, as well as healthy volunteers to help package and deliver them. Overall, they expect to continue doing their part to fight hunger while also fighting to “stop the spread.”
“We are going week to week, we still maintain we can feed these children, and that is our only priority, and we will do that to the best of our ability,” Royal said. “We have received tremendous support. If we can get food in, then we can take care of the rest.”
To learn how to provide food donations, visit their website at: www.kidspack.org. To learn how to volunteer, contact them at: [email protected], or call 863-272-7927.