GOSHEN—To kick off the county’s Orange Cares program, County Executive Steven Neuhaus packed bright green backpacks with nutritious food and snacks on Oct. 22 at Chester Elementary School. Principal Cindy Walsh said 30 students will receive a food-filled backpack every two weeks. “It’s excellent. Students are obviously a little fuller, and more ready to learn.”
Tables were set up in the school lobby with stacks of juice boxes, packaged food, and fresh produce as volunteers got to work. The group packed a variety of food into the backpacks, including canned goods, romaine lettuce, apples, pasta, juice, milk, oatmeal, and bread. Orange Cares hunger initiative will provide weekend food to more than 800 students and their families in the county.
Neuhaus, a father of three, intends to make these outings a regular part of his schedule. “We are going to be doing this every week or so as soon as we start identifying new locations.”
Vital to Learning
He noted young students need nutritious meals to study well. “They are growing. They need to have good meals so they can develop properly and so they can learn. Can you imagine going home at night and not having food in your belly?”
On hand to help pack food with Neuhaus was Darcie Miller, commissioner of social services, Betsy Dickson, director of children’s programs at the regional food bank of northeastern New York, and Sandy Nagler, of the local Kiwanis Club and vice president of the Chester School Board.
Last month, Neuhaus and Miller announced the Orange Cares partnership with Food Bank of the Hudson Valley to assist children in Orange County who are considered food insecure. The county invested $375,000 to jumpstart the two-year program to reach children in the county who are food insecure.
Norma Nunez, social worker at the school, said, “For our families who are in need, it helps them to stretch the budget a little further.” Sandy Nagler said the weekend backpack program coincides with the Kiwanis mission to help the community one child at a time. “That’s exactly what we are doing here by providing extra nutrition that’s needed for the students to keep them thriving.”
Miller said the county works with the food bank to fill the gap for food insecure children and their families. “The food bank is a wonderful partner to identify, not only the backpack programs and how we can assist families by sending the food home with students, but also supporting our food pantry and other organizations that are meeting the needs for kids.”
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