SCRANTON, LACKAWANNA COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) – Thousands of local public school students face a problem that goes well beyond math, science, and geography. They’re struggling with not having enough to eat. Food insecurity is a widespread issue.
Food insecurity has a major negative impact on children’s health and learning ability. Eyewitness News Healthbeat Reporter Mark Hiller checked out a relatively new initiative in Scranton that aims to help change that.
What may have sounded like a college party in progress on Thursday was actually a student assembly project in the lobby of Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine (GCSOM). College students at 10 different stations helped fill packets with beans and rice.
“These are all dehydrated foods that will last for a very long time,” said GCSOM Student Kate Paterson of Scranton.
Throughout the entire school year in the Scranton School District is the hope through an initiative called Colleges Building Community. Ms. Paterson has helped with volunteer projects in the past but she said, “Never an event this big. Never with 25,000 meals all at once.”
This marks the second year for the project which began in 2018 as a 10,000 meal effort. Scranton School District families in need were fed from last September to February thanks to college students.
GCSOM Vice President of Strategy Planning/Graduate School Vice Dean Scott Koerwer said, “They understand it’s a real issue and they want to have an impact. So, they asked us. Can we increase the number of meals and of course we said you bet.”
It’s not just the number of meals that’s increased. So has the number of participating schools which now stands at six. Besides GCSOM, Keystone College, Lackawanna College and University of the Sciences in Philadelphia, the University of Scranton and Marywood University have joined the effort.
“There’s a huge struggle with food insecurity. So, projects like this are really important for the community,” said Marywood University Graduate Student Leslie Healey.
Packing 25 meal packets into each box, students like John Michael Sabatino from the University of the Sciences believe the effort is well-worth driving the distance to The Electric City.
“It’s really good to meet new people, do new things for the community and this is what it’s all about. It’s about meeting other people, networking and helping them out,” said Mr. Sabatino.
The food packets are given to qualifying students in the Scranton School District on Fridays. It’s enough to feed the entire family for the weekend.