GALLIPOLIS — Like many, organizers with the Gallia County Snack Pack Program look forward to the day the COVID-19 pandemic ends.
The program began in 2007 to provide food for children who live on assistance. In 2008, the program distributed its first snack packs in January of 2008. In 2020 and 2021, it has had to make adjustments.
“We thought, ‘Maybe there’s a way we can provide them with a little extra something to tie them over,’” Nancy Smith, a volunteer with the program, said.
The program provides food to students on a monthly basis. Food in a snack pack might include microwave macaroni and cheese, soup, fruit, cereal, and a jar of peanut butter. All food items included in a snack pack are items that do not require additional ingredients at home, and parents are asked about food allergies when applying for the program.
Initially providing for 25 children at Rio Grande Elementary, the program has grown to every school in Gallia County. Before the pandemic began and classes shifted online, it was assisting 750 students in the county. But now, because some students are not taking classes in person and with classes having to move online in some schools as the public health situation changed, the program isn’t sure how to provide for students.
“The only way we could do it is if they’re coming to school physically,” Smith said. When students take classes only online, there’s no way for the program to deliver items, Smith added. “We depend on other programs too. Of course, with school open free and reduced lunch are in place, but when they’re out of school it’s more troubling for us.”
Schools in Gallia County began this week with in-person classes. Smith hopes to send snack packs to schools in the coming week to be distributed to students.
The program has also had to adjust how it makes the packs. Before the pandemic, groups of people would meet to assemble the packs. Now, volunteers go as individuals or in pairs to make the packs in the week leading up to distribution to follow public health guidelines.
“Its taken some flexibility with everything with the pandemic going on,” Smith said.
Because the pandemic has also caused some businesses to suffer, Smith thinks “there is probably a much greater need” for assistance during the pandemic.
“We know that a lot of people are unemployed and not getting checks from the government the way we’d all like to see them taken care of,” she added. “Unfortunately, there is a greater need and no good way of managing it. I’m hoping in the fall virtual school disappears and we’re able to be in the classrooms and give food the way we did.”
Those interested in donating to the Gallia County Snack Pack Program can send checks to Gallia County Snack Pack, P.O. Box 169, 440 2nd Avenue, Gallipolis, OH 45631.
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Sharla Moody is a freelance writer for Ohio Valley Publishing from Gallipolis, Ohio. She is a graduate of River Valley High School and currently attends Yale University.