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These local organizations can help you pay for food, school supplies and more

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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.

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 Feeding the Hungry through her job and got through a rough patch by picking up bread, meat, sandwiches, vegetables and pastries twice a week in West Palm Beach, she says.

“They helped me with food, clothing and other things my children and I needed,” says Perez. “If it were not for Feeding the Hungry, I would be in a bad situation. I appreciate what they did for me. I hope others can get the help I did. I’m thankful.”

Bridging the gap

Feeding the Hungry 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, where families can get help finding food.

In addition to the work of its partner agencies, the food bank operates Food 4 Our Kids, a summer nutritional program that gives students a food-filled backpack each Friday for the weekend. The Food Bank plans to continue the program during the school year.

“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. “During the summers, the number of kids who can get help pales in comparison to the school year. Too often, the school lunch is probably the most significant meal of the day.”

Also, the 211 Palm Beach/Treasure Coast hotline can refer individuals or families to an agency that can help with school supplies or finding 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, senior vice president of communications and resource development. Right before the 2015-2016 school year, United Way ordered eight, 18-wheelers filled with school supplies that were delivered to schools serving primarily low-income students.

“We were literally loading up principals’ cars,” Savage says.

United Way also works with WPTV-Ch. 5 on the Bill Brooks Food for Families drive, also for Thanksgiving.

“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.”

School supplies and more

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

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