Norwin businesses jump in to ensure no kids go hungry on weekends |

Norwin businesses jump in to ensure no kids go hungry on weekends

The Rotary Club of Norwin hopes to keep at least 25 students in the Norwin School District from going hungry on weekends.

The Rotary plans to kick off its “Children’s Weekend Backpack Project” on Dec. 10, which supplies enough food for a weekend to children living in poverty.

Rotary President Dina Denning said each backpack includes dinner and a snack for Friday nights; and easy-to-prepare breakfast, lunch and dinner meals, along with snacks, for Saturday and Sunday.

“We’re not just giving these kids a cup of applesauce and calling it a day,” she said. “The backpacks have well-planned, nutritious meals.”

Denning said the project’s first run targets 25 elementary school children.

Rotary members met with representatives from the Westmoreland County Food Bank in June, who explained that some underprivileged children eat their last meal on Fridays, during lunch at school.

Norwin Rotarians began developing the project in July, Denning said. Their original goal was to develop the project over the course of one year, but the region’s business community embraced the project, which helped it move quickly.

Denning said several businesses offered donations and in-kind services, including Becker Wholesale Mine Supply, which purchased the backpacks. A volunteer, who wished to remain anonymous, agreed to plan meals and pack the backpacks each week.

Belak Flowers volunteered to deliver the backpacks to the schools each Friday, while others pledged monetary donations to purchase food.

Tracy McNelly, a Rotarian and Norwin’s assistant superintendent of secondary education, said the district immediately agreed to participate in the project.

“The administration all agreed that there is nothing worse than a hungry child, and not to try to help them would be shameful,” McNelly said.

Administrators identified 25 children at one elementary school who might be in need. District officials sent letters to their parents, explaining the project and asking them if they would want to participate. McNelly declined to identify the school in an effort to maintain the participants’ anonymity.

If parents agree, McNelly said officials would make sure children receiving backpacks would remain anonymous by distributing backpacks after school, outside of the classroom setting.

McNelly said administrators focused on students participating in the free and reduced lunch program. About 17 percent to 20 percent of students in the targeted school participate in the program, she said.

“We’re certainly not as needy as many other school districts, but it has been as high as 24 percent as the economy has fluctuated,” McNelly said. “But for some families, there is definitely a need, and this is just one way to help them.”

Denning said she hopes the project continues to grow to serve as many children as possible. She said, with help from the community, the project’s potential is endless.

“For the community to come together and help these kids is a true godsend,” she said. “Our goal is to have a hunger-free community.”

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