Filling backpacks for Niles students in need - 21 News Now, More Local News for Youngstown, Ohio -

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Filling backpacks for Niles students in need

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NILES, Ohio - More than half of valley children qualify for free or reduced meals at school and in the Niles City School district 65 percent of children receive assistance. 

The Niles BackPack Program stuffs the backpacks of more than 100 student each Friday at the Intermediate school. 

The Second Harvest Food Bank's BackPack Program expands this fall to include Niles students this year. 

"It's heartbreaking to think that children are hungry to the point where their stomachs hurt and they're nauseous and dizzy, that thought just lingered with me until we just decided we had to do something about it," Amy Hendricks says, organizer of the Niles backpack program.

While volunteering, Hendricks says she learned how many students were going without meals. To help, she organized local banks, businesses and her family's small manufacturing company to donate enough money to start a Niles program.

"Our original plan was to start with 75 kids, we hoped that if we could raise enough money to feed 75 kids once a week, that would be outstanding-- we actually are feeding 150 kids," she says.

Students are provided with meals from the food bank each week. Volunteers at the Second Harvest Food Bank of Mahoning Valley organize the bags each week with enough food and snacks to get the children through the weekends. 

"Teachers were telling us that kids were coming to school, specifically on Monday morning, and they were hungry, because they didn't have much, if anything to eat over the weekend," Mike Iberis says, with the food bank.

Iberis says a growing demand for access to food is all tied to poverty. He's seen a steady increase of families looking for help for the past six years.

With backpack programs in Campbell, Lisbon, Warren and now Niles, volunteers are doing what they can to feed the children in need across our valley. 

About 15,000 people rely on the Second Harvest Food Bank each day. 

Hunger in our Valley is on the rise. And instead of just reporting on the problem, 21 News is doing something to help with Project: Feed Our Valley. 

Non-perishable food donations are being accepted at any local Sparkle Market across the region through December 14. Click here to find a list of the foodbank's biggest needs.

 

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