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New school year raises concerns about child hunger during COVID-19

FeedMore WNY's BackPack program is expected to serve 4,500 students this year due to COVID-19.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — FeedMore WNY has been serving all four counties across Western New York well before the pandemic hit. 

The only difference now is, the demand for food is growing higher and higher as the statistics on hunger and food insecurity throughout the regions grow more serious. 

According to Feeding America, nearly 79,500 children in Western New York will suffer from some degree of hunger by the end of 2020. A big reason for this is, due to the current situation, many children are without their main source of nutrition - school meals. 

While schools continue to figure out ways to ensure students receive their lunches, the reality is, weekends and holidays still leave many mouths unfed. 

Catherine Shick is the Director of Communications for FeedMore WNY. She says while food insecurity is not new for many families throughout the area, the demand for distribution has drastically increased due to COVID-19, which means new individuals and families are finding themselves in a situation they may have never been in before. 

"It's mind boggling," Shick says. "Here in Western New York, by the end of this year, one in six Western New Yorkers will struggle with hunger due to the pandemic."

As a "go-to" resource for families looking for their next meal or maybe just some supplemental nutrients during this tough time, FeedMore WNY offers a variety of programs that are often seen as a solution to this growing problem.

Whether food is being distributed from pantries via partners or meals are being delivered door-to-door by volunteers or children are getting some extra food to take home for weekends and holidays.

"We are expecting to serve as many as 4,500 kids through the program this year," referring to the BackPack program. 

Principal Jill Clark with AJ Schmidt Elementary School has been participating in the BackPack program for 5 years and strongly believes in the benefits of this program, for the entire family, but especially for the kids. 

"Food is their brain power. If their bellies are hungry, who wants to learn? We let our parents know we are here for them, we are all in this together."

As of right now 52 schools are participating in the BackPack program, but more are welcome, Shick says. 

For more information on all available programs and resources, visit FeedMore WNY's website. 

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