Elementary school student helps classmates, others with food drive

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BERWICK, COLUMBIA COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — Research from Feeding America shows more than 42 million Americans, including 13 million children, may experience food insecurity in 2021 as a result of COVID-19.

That means more kids in your communities are hungry, but one local first grader decided to do something about it.

Food banks across Pennsylvania are seeing a 65 percent increase in the number of people needing food assistance in their communities. Researchers say that’s directly related to the pandemic and its impact on our economy.

According to Feeding America, the 2021 projected child food insecurity rate in Columbia County is 16.4 percent but an elementary school student in Berwick refused to let his classmates go hungry.

First grader Emery Jones learned a life lesson. The kind you can’t get from a textbook. He unloaded boxes of more than 1,000 donated items he collected himself.

It started when Emery came home from school and asked his mom why some kids take bags of food home for the weekend. His mother, Jasmine, saw an opportunity to teach her son about food insecurity in the area.

“He was very very upset when he learned that there were kids that had to worry about where their next meal would come from,” Jasmine said.

The pandemic put even more kids in that situation due to its impact on employment and poverty. In March, Feeding America published a study showing a 17 percent projected rate of food insecurity for children in Pennsylvania this year. The issue weighed heavy on the six-year-old’s heart. He just couldn’t let it go.

“He’s like you know, I bet you that’s why some kids are mad or why some kids misbehave. He’s like maybe their bellies are just hungry. That led to more conversations of you know, when you’re hungry you can’t think straight,” Jasmine said.

His parents took him to help at a soup kitchen and that gave Emery an idea.

“He used some of his own money that he got from the leprechaun and he said he wanted to shop and donate that food. Then when he got that food that’s when he said you know, can we ask other people to help me get more food,” Jasmine said.

Jones posted Emery’s call to action on Facebook. He quickly surpassed his goal of 500 items, collecting a total of 1,350 donations. Thursday he took it all to the teen center in Berwick, which runs the weekend food program for West Berwick Elementary.

“Just within his own heart to be able to provide all this food to his classmates, I mean that’s really what he wanted to do. Not only is he going to be able to provide to his own classmates but he’ll be able to provide to the entire school district here in Berwick,” teen center director Teresa Peters said.

In Luzerne County, the child food insecurity rate increased by 35 percent in 2020 according to Feeding America. The same study also projects a 21.5 percent child food insecurity rate for Luzerne County this year.

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