TOWANDA, BRADFORD COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — Childhood hunger is a problem hard to comprehend in 21st century America.
Yet, the national non-profit group Feeding America says it’s a reality for one in five children. A Bradford County woman decided to do something about it on her home turf. As Eyewitness News Reporter Mark Hiller explains, her effort to make sure kids have enough to eat is expanding.
Hundreds of pounds of food on a pallet won’t stay long at a building on Elizabeth Street in Towanda housing CHOP which stands for Child Hunger Outreach Partners.
“This side of the hall is basically snack-type stuff then we have this side with breakfast things and then dinner things,” said Dani Rhuf, the executive director and founder of CHOP which grew out of a conversation with her teenaged daughter who told her some fellow students at Wyalusing High School weren’t getting fed.
“Well, first I didn’t believe it because everyone is so blind to the fact that there’s really hungry people in our community.”
When asked if it made her angry, Ms. Rhuf said: “After I got over the shock that it was actually true, and I was very angry.”
She turned her anger into action by first gathering enough food to feed 45 students in Bradford County. Fast forward and it’s now students by the thousands each week helped in more than two dozen locations throughout Bradford and Tioga Counties.
Much of the food goes to in-school pantries and for students to take home with them on weekends. Some of it heads to an after-school program at Sayre Area School District where Keirsty Holland is Site Coordinator.
“Everyone knows it’s hard to focus on something you’re doing when you’re hungry. So CHOP allows us to provide a few snacks each day,” said Ms. Holland.
CHOP is so successful it’s expanding. A major boxed food drop happened January 6th at the former Mehoopany Elementary School to benefit students in need in the Tunkhannock Area School District.
A generous community helps Rhuf buy the food which says all those hungry students wouldn’t receive without the help of dedicated volunteers like Rob Archer who said, “It’s something I can really get behind. I believe in helping especially the children. I think it’s a great cause.”
It’s a cause Ms. Rhuf hopes she can keep growing to help more students meet a basic need. “Because I know that the hunger doesn’t end right at the county line,” she said.
Ms. Rhuf has seen her efforts spread to other states in the eastern U.S. from Maine to Florida. She could use more donations and volunteers to keep CHOP thriving.