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These local organizations can provide essentials in a pinch

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Woman holding bread at food bank

In this article, you’ll find answers to questions like:

1. Is there help for kids?
2. Who gives referrals?
3. What about school supplies?

Palm Beach County parents who need help providing food or school supplies for their children might be surprised by how many local organizations are there to back them up.

Feed the Hungry Pantry in West Palm Beach is one of hundreds of programs under the umbrella of the Palm Beach County Food Bank, based in Lantana and funded by Children’s Services Council of Palm Beach County, where families can get help finding food.

Take Sonia Perez, a mother of four children. She decided it was time to leave a bad marriage but soon found herself struggling to keep food on the table.

She heard about the food bank through her job and got through a rough patch by picking up bread, meat, sandwiches, vegetables and pastries twice a week, she says.

“They helped me with food, clothing and other things my children and I needed,” Perez says. “I appreciate what they did for me. I hope others can get the help I did. I’m thankful.”

1. IS THERE HELP FOR KIDS?

In addition to the work of its partner agencies, the food bank operates Lois's Food4Kids, a year-round nutritional program that gives students a food-filled backpack each Friday for the weekend.

“We know there are thousands of kids who can benefit from this and all of our programs,” says Perry Borman, former executive director of the food bank. “Too often, the school lunch is probably the most significant meal of the day.”

2. WHO GIVES REFERRALS?

Also, the 211 Palm Beach/Treasure Coast hotline can refer individuals or families to an agency that can help with school supplies or find a food pantry or feeding program, says Patrice Schroeder, 211 community relations specialist.

Another option is United Way of Palm Beach County, which offers programs that assist with meals or school supplies, says Lexi Savage, former senior vice president of communications and resource development. Right before a recent school year, United Way ordered eight, 18-wheelers filled with school supplies that were delivered to schools serving primarily low-income students.

“About 41 percent of the population of Palm Beach County is living paycheck to paycheck,” Savage says. “So if there’s a crisis, such as a car breakdown, they’re financially vulnerable. They’ll stop spending money on food.”

3. WHAT ABOUT SCHOOL SUPPLIES?

The Education Foundation of Palm Beach County, which helps low-income students get uniforms, launched the Red Apple Supplies program to help give school supplies to needy students, says Laura Bessinger-Morse, the foundation’s former program officer.

Teachers at qualified schools — with at least 95 percent of students in the free- and reduced-lunch program — can get supplies for students and deliver them in the classroom.

“We know there is a tremendously high level of need in our school system,” Bessinger-Morse says. “And we’ve been asking teachers what it means when a student doesn’t have the supplies they need. They’re anxious when they have to borrow materials. Also, many teachers tell us they can’t assign some projects because they know students can’t afford the supplies.”

SOURCES:

• Perry Borman, former executive director, Palm Beach County Food Bank
• Patrice Shroeder, community relations specialist, 211 Palm Beach/Treasure Coast
• Lexi Savage, former senior vice president of communications and resource development, United Way of Palm Beach County
• Laura Bessinger-Morse, former program officer, Education Foundation of Palm Beach County

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