Thousands of school children in Connecticut's richest county are hungry on the weekends. Nonprofit Filling in the Blanks (FIB) has strived to fill those bellies and on a typical Friday would have free take-home meals for Saturday and Sunday available to 2,500 children — all of whom rely on free or reduced-price lunch to meet their nutritional needs while school is in session.
But March 20 was not your typical Friday: No school was in session and the organization's co-founders/co-directors Shawnee Knight and Tina Kramer scrambled to make alternate plans so their usual weekend meal recipients in Greenwich, Norwalk, Stamford and Bedford Hills, N.Y., would have adequate food items to carry them through.
"It changed minute by minute," recounted Shawnee Knight. She said the non-profit had begun making school deliveries earlier in the week while schools were open and arranged for other drive-up locations, including a church and childcare center Thursday and Friday as the coronavirus impact made its harsh landing.
The effort resulted in providing supplemental food bags of breakfast and lunch items, fruit and snacks for 1,100 children.
"This week again we're trying to find new ways and locations to get them out and try to confirm that those same locations are still okay to use," Knight told Daily Voice Plus. In order to maintain social distancing, the operation is being run by the founders, along with some paid staff and a driver, but not the usual volunteers that help the energetic operation run smoothly in normal times.
Knight said measures are being taken to protect everyone doing the work. "Our bags are packed and sealed and everybody is wearing gloves. We're leaving them [the meals] in a receptacle outside the pick-up locations."
FIB has partnered with several organizations to provide these weekend food bags at no cost to families and is committed to serving the community throughout the current COVID-19 Pandemic.
“Having multiple organizations come together to help those most affected by the COVID19 Pandemic is necessary and essential to the community,” said Knight, “Now more than ever, local families need a lift,” said Yenny Toone, Family Centers’ director of Early Childhood and partner of FIB. “With so many people out of work as a result of the COVID-19 situation, healthy food is one of those basic living necessities that is becoming increasingly difficult for people to afford. Our partnership with Filling in the Blanks allows us to provide some relief to our most vulnerable families.”
“We are thankful for the support of our partner agencies, volunteers and employees. Without them we would not have been able to coordinate deliveries to food-insecure children during this uncertain time," added Kramer.
Their remaining challenge is getting the word out and raising money in our new reality, Knight noted.
A golf outing and other charity events have been canceled amid the health crisis but funding is still necessary to run the charity and purchase food from a warehouse.
"We're running a virtual food drive now,” said Knight. “The biggest challenge is needing more donations and obviously securing locations to bring the meals and getting the word out that we have meals for the children.”
For information about the virtual food drive going on now during the coronavirus crisis, click here. "Our goal is to get the food to the children that need it," said Knight.