Trisha Ewald’s mission hits close to home. She spends her time volunteering with Blessings in a Backpack, a national nonprofit organization that provides food on the weekends for students who might otherwise go hungry.
For many of them, having breakfast and lunch at school helps during the week but unfortunately, they oftentimes lack the resources when they’re not in school.
“I know what it’s like to be hungry,” said Trisha, the Northeast Regional Manager.
More than 13 million children in the United States live in food-insecure homes. Long Island is no exception. Seven districts, including the Longwood School District, partner with the program. More than half of the students are eligible for free and reduced-cost meals, Longwood officials said.
The number of students coming into Longwood School District from other countries where English is not their first language and families struggling to become part of a community and economy is very real here,” Longwood Superintendent Michael Lonergan said. “And that’s what’s represented by many of the families that are in need.”
Each week, Trisha and other volunteers discretely fill close to 400 backpacks with nutritious, kid-friendly foods to get them to Monday morning.
“In the Longwood School District alone, we’re feeding communities in Medford, Gordon Heights, Shirley, Ridge, Middle Island, Coram,” Trisha said.
She oversees 120 volunteers in the northeast region who facilitate programs in their local schools. Among them are Marcy Katz and her son Miles, who volunteer in the Half Hollow Hills School District.
“We were only packing in our house, my mom, my sister, dad and a few other volunteers,” Miles said. “We were only doing for Candlewood at the time and now we’re at all nine schools in the district.”
Each week, 10 or so volunteers come out to help. They all know their roles. It takes about 15 minutes and then packages are dropped off at each school for the weekend.
“We have kids all over the community who live in different parts, not just wealthy areas in need, and we have kids in need,” said Marcy, the program coordinator for Half Hollow Hills School District.
Nationally, as little as $100 feeds one child on the weekends for the entire school year but that number is higher in the tristate area. The program can’t run itself. Volunteers rely solely on donations.
“I know it would’ve made a difference in my life had a program like this existed then,” Trisha said.