WESTFIELD-While some students won’t need to worry about proper nutrition during spring vacation week, others will experience food insecurity.
“April vacation means children will be without access to school breakfast and lunch programs,” said Rebecca Hart, director of the Westfield Food Pantry, noting that April 15-19 is school vacation week in the city. “During this time we try to give our families with children a little extra to ensure that no child in Westfield goes hungry.”
Hart noted that donations of “child friendly meal and snack options” are currently needed to fill the pantry shelves.
“Traditionally, foodstuffs come in and go right out,” said Hart.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture defines food insecurity as a state in which “consistent access to adequate food is limited by a lack of money and other resources at times during the year.”
“We anticipate serving 250 to 300 families with children who are impacted when school vacation occurs,” said Hart, adding the pantry offered additional food to families during the February vacation week.
“This past February overall was the busiest at the food pantry in the last three years,” she said, noting 2,000 pounds of food was distributed. “Underemployment and school debt are among the major contributors for persons seeking services. Also, because the area experienced less snowfall this past winter, we are also seeing laborers involved in snow-related jobs seeking assistance.”
“We have a refrigerator now so we can also accommodate a wide variety of meal and snack options,” she added. “Please consider donations with a high nutrition value including apples and other whole fruits, as well as carrots and string cheese.”
Popular donation items with young people also include peanut butter, jelly, Mac and cheese, bananas, nut based granola bars, applesauce, fruit cups or pouches, raisins and other dried fruit, crackers, pretzels, trail mix and popcorn.
Hart added that with refrigeration, she can offer milk that the pantry purchases and also encourages donations of cereal cups, boxed cereal and oatmeal packets.
Items that are also welcome include small bottles of water, canned vegetables, pasta and pasta sauces.
“We appreciate all donations received by the community,” said Hart. “It’s so important to ensure that children are well fed which in turn improves their academic performance.”
Donations are being accepted on Thursday from 5 to 6:30 p.m., and Friday from 10 a.m. to noon. During school vacation week, donations can also be dropped off on Monday and Tuesday from 10 a.m. to noon.
On a related note, Hart said that the annual Letter Carriers’ “Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive” is May 11.
“Last year we received 11,000 pounds of food,” said Hart, adding the collection marked a “great year.”
“When the letter carriers put out a plastic bag for city residents, we receive a significant amount of food,” she said, adding the collection is the biggest food drive of the year for the food pantry. “We so appreciate everyone’s efforts with this drive.”
For more information on the Westfield Food Pantry, visit www.westfieldfoodpantry.org. The office is located at 101 Meadow St.