MIDDLEBURG — Betty Klinger knew she had to act when a Midd-West School District fifth-grader mentioned that he often went hungry on weekends.
Klinger, a Middleburg parent, was heartbroken and figured other students were likely suffering in similar situations.
“When he told me he didn’t have much to eat at home, it made me think of how many other kids are going hungry,” she said.
A few months later, Klinger heard about Shikellamy School District’s Caring for Kids program that provides supplemental nutrition for pupils in the Sunbury district to take home on weekends.
500 now in Shik program
The program started last year with four children and today feeds about 500 Shikellamy children weekly. The idea began in the Danville School District, which started offering nonperishable food to students in one elementary school in 2007 and now, seven years later, the group Many Hands Helping Others distributes 260 bags of food weekly to students in all four Danville schools.
880 get free or cheap lunch
Realizing there was a need in her community, Klinger pitched a similar idea to Midd-West school officials in the fall and it was embraced by elementary school nurse Candace Benner, who was eager to serve children in the district where 40 percent of the student population, or about 880 children, receive a free or reduced lunch.
“My concern, from a health standpoint, is that young kids need adequate nutrition for strong bones and healthy organs,” Benner said. “If they come to school hungry, they’re not going to learn.”
Midd-West launched Weekend Partners in January at the Middleburg Elementary School with four participants and has slowly expanded to 33 students and their siblings, who receive a bag of donated nonperishable food that includes juice, oatmeal, cereal, fresh fruit, granola bars, soup and ready-to-eat macaroni every Friday.