Seneca Library District Participates in Free Summer Snack Program with Child Hunger Outreach Partners (CHOP)
1 in 6 Children each day go hungry in the United States of America. 1 in 6.
In rural Northwest PA, many of the school districts cannot afford to continue serving free breakfast and lunch over the summer months. When school is out, where do children go to find food? In the Seneca Library District, they can go to their public libraries for a free snack or quick meal.
The Seneca Library District comprises seventeen small, rural public libraries that have been providing a free snack or quick meal to their young patrons, one way or another, since 2017. Sometimes they find the money in grants, sometimes they find the money through fundraising, sometimes they find the money through generous local donors, and sometimes they find a true community partner like Child Hunger Outreach Partners (CHOP).
In November 2021 CHOP partnered with the Port Allegany School District in McKean County to host an In-School Pantry and Backpack Program. Any student in the high school could access free “grab-and-go nutritious snacks, as well as food to be taken home and prepared” from the In-School Pantry housed in the high school library. Additionally, any student in the elementary school could sign-up for the weekend Backpack Program. “Students are given a bag of food every Friday to take home to get them through the weekend. Bags include easy to prepare, nutritious foods, and fresh produce.”
The Director of the S.W. Smith Memorial Public Library in Port Allegany, Mary Grace Collier-Kisler, was informed of CHOP’s partnership with the school district by the very same students the library feeds all summer. The students were relieved to have access to free food year round with the combination of CHOP’s program in the school district and the already established Free Summer Snack program at S.W. Smith Memorial Public Library.
Finding funding to offer a free summer foods program is never easy, so Mary Grace immediately contacted CHOP to see if the library could continue CHOP’s program during the summer months. The response was an immediate and resounding YES! CHOP would not only supply all of the food, they would also deliver it to the library.
Collaboration being key to success, Mary Grace asked if other libraries in the Seneca Library District could also partner with CHOP, explaining the high need for summer foods in the rural library district. CHOP found local food banks and corporate partners willing to work with them in McKean, Elk, and Warren counties and a new partner for Free Summer Snack in the Seneca Library District was born. While each library is rolling out their summer foods program on a different date, they are in fact rolling out.
In six days, S.W. Smith Memorial Public Library served a total of 157 snacks and quick meals, many to young patrons who come daily to the library for socialization, a place to play, and for food. Local organizational and private donors of the S.W. Smith Memorial Public Library also contributed water, milk, juice, and baby food to the library for free distribution. The community knows how vital it is to support a summer foods program for their youth and are willing to help make the library’s efforts a success.
“CHOP relies on the generous support” of corporate partners to help them “respond to childhood hunger.” CHOP has “an extensive network of partners that helps CHOP feed 10,000 thousand kids every week across [their] service area. These partners include schools and not-for-profits that help [CHOP] reach kids in need.” If you are considering launching a food program for youth through your library, reach out to a CHOP team member. “The answer is always YES because on the other side of no is a hungry child.”
Child Outreach Hunger Partners (CHOP)
2 Elizabeth Street
Towanda, PA 18848
Mary Grace Collier-Kisler, Director
S W Smith Memorial Public Library