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County proclaims September as ‘Hunger Action Month’

Serving a need

PHOTO PROVIDED Commissioners Angela Harding, Miles Kessing and Jeff Snyder are pictured with Central PA Food Bank Representatives Tara Davis and Jennifer Kurelja. On Thursday the commissioners proclaimed September as Hunger Action Month and heard a presentation from Davis and Kurelja about the food bank’s services in Clinton County.

LOCK HAVEN — The Clinton County Commissioners proclaimed September as Hunger Action Month.

Prior to the approval the board — Miles Kessinger, Jeff Snyder and Angela Harding — heard a presentation from representatives of the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank.

Tara Davis, Director of Agency Services and Outreach in Harrisburg, said the food bank services 27 counties Pennsylvania which are clustered in the central part of the state.

Clinton County is one of those counties which the food bank holds a State Food Purchase Contract with the organization.

“We definitely take pride in being able to hold that contract and be able to service our partner agencies and the Clinton County Community,” Davis said.

The food bank partners with The Salvation Army in Lock Haven and Renovo, The New Love Center, the Keystone Central School District, Lock Haven Area YMCA and the Clinton County Veterans Affairs Program among other, Davis said.

Beyond just food drives, Davis said the food bank assists an a variety of programs.

“A lot of folks know us more for traditional programs such as at a church of the Salvation Army. But we’re also about specific population programing,” Davis said. “We have Fresh Expresses that allow us to do more of a drop and go program of excess produce.”

“We also have a Military Share Program that serves specifically military families — whether they’re active or non-active military members,” she continued.

Other programs include a Kids Cafe which is an afterschool program, a back pack program which provides a weekend worth of food for children and a school pantry.

“The school pantry is similar to a regular food pantry but held at a school,” Davis said.

The organization also has senior program.

“It serves our senior citizens through a program call the Senior Food Box Program,” she said. “If a senior is not eligible for that federally funded program, we do have our own private funding that will serve those seniors.”

Beyond just providing food, Davis said Central PA Food Bank also offers assistance.

“We do a SNAP program, better know as foodstamps. We have a team that helps provide help over the phone in applying for foodstamps,” she said. “So we will help that family apply for the foodstamps, help them with all of the paperwork and follow them through their journey until they receive those benefits.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has proven to be a challenge for many families in Clinton County, and the food bank has been there to assist through its partner agencies.

“Clinton County alone had an 83 percent increase in food distribution,” she said. “Kudos to Clinton County partners for being able to really step up and help the community. And they did this in a safe manner… they all figured out a way to distribute safely so that residents could receive fresh, nutricious foods.”

According to the proclamation approved Thursday, the food insecurity rate in Clinton County will rise 14.1 percent due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Jennifer Kurelja, the agency’s service manager for the northern tier, is based out of the food bank’s Williamsport office. She had nothing but good things to say about the county’s volunteers.

“I work directly with our partners and I’m very proud of the fact that every one of them stayed open and served during COVID,” she said. “They’re our true heroes really, not necessarily the Central PA Food Bank, but the ones who were on the frontlines.”

Kurelja stressed how important the work in Clinton County is, given how rural the area is.

“They met a different population. There’s a rural community which is very unique to the northern tier,” she said. “That is our challenge, to get food to those populations that are situated out a bit.”

Kurelja noted that, in Renovo, when COVID-19 first appeared so many volunteers pitched in to help with pop up pantries in the borough.

“That is something that I’m impressed with in Clinton County,” she said.

Kessinger thanked the Davis and Kurelja for the agency’s service.

“We certainly want to thank you on behalf of citizens of Clinton County for all the work you’re doing,” he said. “I know we have a lot of needs in the county and we thank you for your efforts. Anything we can do to assist you, please let us know.”

Harding echoed Kessinger’s statement.

“We appreacited the work you do, and more so what the folks in Clinton County are doing,” she said.

Harding noted that just Thursday morning on her way to the Piper Building she saw a line of people waiting outside The Salvation Army along Church Street.

“There was a line of about 12 or 13 people waiting for The Salvation Army to open to get food this morning. So it’s happening here and we’re very thankful for the committment of the Central PA Food Bank,” she concluded.

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