The Thanksgiving holiday conjures up great memories of childhood, family gatherings and endless and scrumptious delicacies like turkey and mashed potatoes, mouth-watering stuffing, various veggies, and don’t forget pumpkin, blueberry and apple pies. Now imagine being a 10-year-old in one of our Pennsylvania communities and your next meal comes from the breakfast or lunch program at school. You don’t have the massive meal many of us plan and prepare over this time-honored traditional holiday.
According to Feeding America’s 2017 data, there are over 437,340 food insecure children in Pennsylvania. That’s equivalent to the combined total populations of Pittsburgh, Erie, Easton and Bloomsburg.
So, what can local officials do to combat childhood hunger? We can all learn from Tina Amato, Nutrition and Physical Activity Manager with the Allentown Health Bureau. Her program – Healthy Kids Healthy Allentown, “connects kids and teens to healthy meals all year long to impact hunger and food insecurity” in the city. Tina coordinates an army of organizations and volunteers to work together to combat this pesky and persistent challenge. Healthy Kids Healthy Allentown has received a $125,000 competitive grant from the National League of Cities and the Food Research and Action Center with support from the Walmart Foundation to fight childhood hunger year round.
Mayor Ray O’Connell recently recognized the city’s many community partners in their efforts to reach children all over the city including the Allentown Health Bureau, Department of Parks and Recreation, Allentown School District, Lehigh Valley Children’s Centers, Lehigh Valley Food Policy Council, Allentown Public Library, Lehigh Valley Hospital, Greater Valley YMCA, among others. One innovative aspect of the program is “Firehouse Fridays”, where a city firehouse opens up for children to receive meals, while visiting with firefighters and checking out firetrucks and other emergency service apparatus.
So as we all gather with our families this Thanksgiving, let’s recommit our local efforts to fight hunger among the many children and families in need. Watch this video to learn more about Allentown’s amazing efforts to bring people together to make a real difference in their community and hopefully remind all of us of the good work we can do.