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Larissa Bacorn, director of operations in Pennsylvania for CHOP, is shown sitting in front of thousands of bags of food.

TOWANDA BOROUGH — Under normal circumstances Child Hunger Outreach Partners in Towanda would raise funds and provide food for in-school pantries, backpacks and pop-up pantries throughout Wyoming and Bradford counties. Now, with an unprecedented demand due to the COVID-19 pandemic, CHOP is working harder than ever to provide food to families that need it. The non-profit has packed tens of thousands of bags of food per week that are being distributed by schools and churches in the area.

“We wanted to spring into action and provide food to the students while in this outage because first and foremost, it’s our core mission to create an entire generation that doesn’t know hunger,” said Executive Director Danielle Ruhf. “This means during school, during summer, and during emergencies. Secondly, the psychology of food insecurity spirals into a host of other issues, and we have worked very hard to begin to eliminate that sidepiece to the crisis of childhood hunger.”

With normal staff this type of production would not be possible, but thanks to an outpouring amount of volunteers and support from the community the group is feeding thousands daily.

“We have cried so many happy tears during this period,” Ruhf continued. “The community has rallied around us in unfathomable ways and we were able to ramp up from 1,700 bags a week to 18,000 bags a week quite seamlessly. We had such an abundance of volunteers and outpouring of support, and we know we couldn’t have accomplished this task otherwise.”

While the volunteer support has allowed the organization to ramp up their activities, more quarantines or an elongated version of the one currently being experienced could pose financial trouble for keeping their activities going.

“Our biggest issues at this time are how to continue to meet the needs of the community while still practicing responsible social distancing, and funding,” Ruhf continued. “For example, each bag of food (which is enough for one student for two to three days) costs us $1. Eighteen thousand bags in one week was a massive hit on our budget and the longer this draws out, the faster we will see our account dwindle.”

“This is obviously something nobody would have planned or budgeted for, but we just refuse to say no to these students.”

If anyone would like to donate to the organization one can do so at https://childhungeroutreachpartners.networkforgood.com.

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