Naples | According to the latest estimates from the U.S. Health and Human Services, one in five children lack proper access to food at some point each year. This increases during the summer months when schools are on break or summer programs only offer meal programs four days a week.
Catholic Charities of Collier County has been working with the Collier County School District for years to provide the Weekend Power Pack Food Program where homeless/needy elementary students are provided food to sustain them through the weekend when school meals are not available.
For the first time, the program was offered for students attending summer school activities. These children are eligible for free or reduced breakfast and lunch Monday through Thursday, so the Week Power Pack Program provides the supplemental food to cover the long weekends.
St. Agnes Parish in Naples volunteered to hold a special food drive on the weekend of June 15-16, encouraging parishioners to bring in the key items needed for the summer version of the Catholic Charities Weekend Power Pack Food Program. Deacon Henry deMena, of the Parish Justice and Peace Committee, recorded the overwhelming response, which he saw firsthand as first a conference room and then his office were filled with bags of donated food.
“From the donated food alone, we have already delivered 400 Power Pack bags of food to the Naples Park (Elementary) School feeding 185 children in need for the next two weekends,” Deacon deMena reported. “The school administrators were in awe.”
The initial goal was to provide enough food to stuff some 200 Power Packs, the number of needy children at a Naples Park Elementary School.
From the monetary donations the parishioners made to Catholic Charities, the Power Pack program will easily cover the full five weeks for the school and are now looking to feed children at an additional school with another 100 Power Packs each week.
Mary Shaughnessy, Catholic Charities district director, said because of the overwhelming success of the partnership with St. Agnes Parish for the Summer Weekend Power Pack Program food drive, there is an effort now underway to apply for a grant to join with several additional parishes next summer to feed a minimum of 500 children attending summer school.
“Their success has catapulted us into addressing children’s hunger over the summer months,” Shaughnessy said.
St. Agnes Pastor, Father Bob Kantor said he was overwhelmed, but not surprised by the generosity of the Parish community. “The people of St. Agnes are incredible. They step up time and time again. This is just the latest example of their commitment to answering any call of need.”