Non-profits join to help provide food security for area young people
By Tony E. Windsor
In an effort to address food insecurity among youth in Sussex County, three Delaware non-profits have joined in partnership to provide weekend meals to at-risk youth. The Harry K Foundation, Boys & Girls Clubs of Delaware and Connections Community Support Services, Inc. are making weekend “food bags” available to young people over the weekend when schools are not open and the youth do not have access to the daily meals provided there.
At the helm of the project is “The Harry K Foundation,” which supports the program through its mission of providing food security for young people. Founded by Rehoboth Beach businessman, Harry Keswani, the foundation supports a number of youth nutrition missions, including a similar school-based Back Pack program and food pantries established in conjunction with the Delaware Food Bank.
Keswani was born in England to parents that were originally from India. His parents shared with him stories about the devastation caused in their native country by poverty and starvation. The impact this had on young people was particularly disturbing to Keswani. He made it his mission to work with a close friend who was a homeopathic doctor living in India to bring needed care to those people suffering from poverty in that country.
It was when his close friend died, that Keswani felt personal despair, but also was left with a desire to continue providing help for people in need. It was when he learned about the impact of hunger on young people in communities throughout Sussex County and Delaware that he decided to make this his new passion. In 2014, Keswani established “The Harry K Foundation” and enlisted the support of a committee of local community leaders and those people who are knowledgeable about the issue of food insecurity, especially in the area of how it impacts young people.
Recently, Keswani met with representatives of Boys & Girls Clubs of Delaware in an effort to develop a weekend food bag program to supplement the organization’s provision of daily meals at its sites throughout Sussex County. Boys & Girls Clubs of Delaware participates in the USDA/State of Delaware Office of Nutrition’s year around food programs. This enables youth who attend the clubs to receive daily suppers throughout the school year through the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) and lunch and afternoon snacks during the summer months as part of the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP).
The Harry K Foundation’s “Weekend Food Bag” program now enables youth at risk of low food security to receive the weekend food supplements. The meals, which include two days of breakfast, lunch and supper, are prepared and packaged by Connections, CSP staff, and then delivered to six B&G Club sites in Sussex County for distribution to the children before they leave on Friday afternoon. Connections is the contracted vendor for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Delaware’s statewide food program, and the organization prepares and delivers daily meals to club sites throughout the state.
The Harry K Foundation Weekend Food Bag program is providing the weekend food supplements to Boys & Girls Club sites in Seaford, Laurel, Georgetown, Oak Orchard, Dagsboro and Rehoboth Beach. In all, about 175 back packs are distributed to youth in Sussex County each week.
Keswani said the Weekend Food Bag program at Boys & Girls Clubs of Delaware fits perfectly with his vision of how his foundation can work to help ensure that “no child in Delaware goes to bed hungry.” He is committing 100 percent of the Harry K Foundation to this vision.
“Prior to starting the Foundation,” Keswani said, “I was shocked to learn of the rising problem of hunger and poverty in our local communities and even more disturbed to learn that many school children consume their only meals while attending school, and will often go hungry in the evening and on weekends. We are happy to partner with the Boys & Girls Clubs of Delaware in Sussex County to help the children in need with a food bag for the weekends. This is about the children in our area, and throughout Delaware, who don’t have enough to eat. We must work together to care for our children.”
Tim Durnan, Director of Employment and Empowerment Services for Connections, CSP, Inc., said the Weekend Food Bag program compliments the mission of Connections as well. “It has always been a goal of Connections Community Support Programs to be able to provide weekend meals to children who might not otherwise have anything to eat over the weekend,” he said. “We currently provide meals to all the Boys and Girls Club sites throughout the state of Delaware and the weekend food bag program is the perfect extension to help fulfill the nutritional needs of kids on a seven day a week basis.
“Thanks to our partnership with the Harry K. Foundation and the Boys and Girls Clubs of Delaware, we are now able to play our part in minimizing food insecurity for children in Sussex County and look forward to being able to help even more children in the future.”
Suchi Hiraesave, Boys & Girls Clubs of Delaware Executive Director of Grants Development, which administers the organization’s food program, said that the Harry K Foundation Weekend Food Bag program is another opportunity for Boys & Girls Clubs of Delaware to fulfill its mission of providing positive youth development opportunities for Delaware’s youth.
Hiraesave pointed out that good nutrition and food security is vital for young people as it contributes greatly to their ability to learn and perform well in the classroom. She said research shows that children who eat more nutritious meals are less likely to miss school, have fewer behavioral problems and perform better in school.
“Boys & Girls Clubs of Delaware is excited about being able to provide daily, nutritious meals to our youth members through our involvement in both the CACFP and SFSP programs. This allows us to provide as many as 500,000 daily meals to our members each year. Thanks to the support of the Harry K Foundation we can now expand the opportunity and ensure children are able to get good nutrition that provides them with three meals a day for Saturdays and Sundays each weekend,” she said.
A special initiative to address food insecurity among youth in Sussex County has been undertaken through funding from The Harry K Foundation, a nationally recognized non-profit based in Rehoboth Beach. The Foundation is being joined by two other Delaware non-profit organizations, Boys & Girls Clubs of Delaware and Connections Community Support Services, Inc. to package and distribute food bags to members of six Boys & Girls Clubs in Sussex County. Pictured here are (left to right): Millie Charnick, Vice-President of Operations for B&G Clubs of Delaware’s Southern Region; Chris Couch, Executive Director of the Western Sussex Boys & Girls Club in Seaford and Laurel; Harry Keswani, President and Founder of The Harry K Foundation; Stephanie Rhoads, Harry K Foundation Committee member; Chef Gaylan Maxson, Executive Chef of Food Service & Servsafe Instructor for Connections, CSP, Inc. Tim Durnan, Director of Employment and Empowerment Services for Connections, CSP, Inc., and Tyrell Whitney, Southern Delaware Manager of Food Service for Connections CSP, Inc. Photo by Tony Windsor
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