By Earline E. Middleton | VP of Partner Services & Public Policy
When winter weather hits, we all feel apprehensive about what the coming days may bring. Families must make arrangements to care for their children when school is canceled or delayed. Businesses close, people stay home. Stories of people cleaning out the milk and bread aisles at the grocery store plaster the news.
For people living with food insecurity, other stressors add to the wintry mix.
Many programs aimed at feeding children in need are tightly intertwined if not directly connected with school. When schools close due to weather conditions, thousands of children in our service area go without breakfast and lunch. When schools are closed on Fridays, thousands more in these areas do not receive their regular Weekend Power Pack filled with extra meals to get them through Saturday and Sunday. Many of our Kids Cafe programs that provide extra snacks to children in the afternoons also often close due to road conditions. This adds up to thousands of growling stomachs and even more strain on tight family budgets. When winter weather hits, that is our biggest worry.
“For some, the idea of a day off from school sounds like fun, particularly if there is snow involved. But for others it means going without the safety and food that school provides,” says Gideon Adams, Food Bank CENC’s Vice President for Community Health and Engagement. “With harsh weather, many families now face the added expense of feeding children for extra days. Even a two hour delay at the start of the school day means no breakfast for a lot of kids. A snow-ball fight just doesn’t make up for that.”
As a hunger relief organization, we also face challenges when the roads turn to ice. Our drivers cannot deliver food to our partner agencies nor pick up donations at retail stores. Our volunteers are unable to come to our distribution centers to sort and prepare food for distribution. And many of our partner agencies cannot drive to our branches to pick up food in order to stock their pantry, shelter, or soup kitchen, especially those in rural areas where roads may not be cleared for days.
And for the people we serve, the challenges are even greater. Families struggle to pay for extra childcare, higher heating bills, and put more food on the table. Closed businesses may result in lost wages for workers, making their paychecks even smaller. People without a permanent residence must try to find an open bed at a nearby shelter and protect themselves from harsh conditions.
It can be difficult to imagine the struggle of our most vulnerable neighbors while Mother Nature so easily paralyzes an entire city. Extreme weather affects us all, but as the roads thaw we keep in our minds those who will have a harder time getting through this season, and we will work hard to provide food to local shelters, food pantries, and rescue missions so that they may serve as many of them as possible.