FLORENCE, KY (WKRC) - A Northern Kentucky nonprofit is making sure kids don't go hungry during summer break, and they are seeing a major increase in need this year.
Go! Pantry in Florence works with school districts in Northern Kentucky and Southeastern Indiana to send home bags of food with students in need on the weekends during the school year. They also send home boxes of food with students in need during the school year. Each box has breakfast, lunch, and snacks for a week as well as two small dinners.
Executive Director Laura Dumancic said they are serving 30% more kids this year than they did last year.
"As we're planning for summer and we're looking forward to all the fun activities we're going to do with our kids, these kids, a lot of them dread the idea of summer. There's a lot of anxiety. They don't have much to do. They're often left home alone so no one to do things with and for many of these kids without much or anything to eat," Dumancic said.
Dumancic said they started helping seven kids in one school in Boone County, and this summer, they will be helping 1,200 kids a week across six counties.
"There are no feeding programs really here in Northern Kentucky for the summer, so this box will replace the breakfast and lunch every day of the week, it also provides two light dinners, extra fruits and vegetables and lots of snacks," Dumancic said.
St. Elizabeth Healthcare has helped the nonprofit get more than 4,000 boxes together for this summer. Then a team of volunteers from St. Elizabeth spent the day on Wednesday checking the boxes to make sure they were ready for families.
Brittany Wilkinson is one of the leaders with St. Elizabeth who has helped get those boxes together, and she did so by encouraging her co-workers with her story.
"Growing up I was the child that needed those weekend bags. I was the child that needed the boxes to go home during the summer. So for me, it's really heartfelt. I used it whenever I was a child and then again when I was pregnant with my first child and then even after delivery," Wilkinson said.
Now, she is teaching her daughter Shkylar about the importance of giving back. Shkylar helped Brittany get boxes together.
"Having my daughter that can go the store with us, cross off the list and really know why we're doing this is really important to me," Wilkinson said.
Dumancic said St. Elizabeth has been a huge help in making sure thousands of boxes are delivered each year.
"Their teams have worked really hard to get together to pack these boxes, then we will have to open each and every box to make sure all of the items are safe, unexpired, that they aren't missing any items."
Boone County's Stephens Elementary Principal Eric Blankenship said he has seen the need for these boxes first hand.
"Just in my school of 600 kids we have 75 families that get the GO! Pantry boxes. We're just fortunate with all the volunteers in our community that really helped to donate to support GO! Pantry," Blankenship said.
He said they recognize a difference in student behavior as they near the end of the school year. Some of that is because of the nerves about being home without food all summer.
"A lot of those kids are nervous about summer because they know they get the food, drinks at school and they have that stability. So just having a little extra food at home to help those families helps the students as well," Blankenship said.