Mel Curtis was perhaps more brutally honest than any other man who has ever stood in the presence of so much pudding.
And not just pudding. We’re talking boxes upon boxes of cereal, reams of ramen noodles and enough cans of Chef Boyardee to lend some credence to the term “variety pack,” all spread out assembly line-style in the gymnasium at the Moshannon Valley Branch of the YMCA of Centre County.
The task in front of them, Curtis told the crowd of volunteers assembled, would not go quickly. Imagine packing a backpack lunch for your kid, your kid’s friend and your kid’s friend’s entire rugby team. Now dream a little bigger.
It’s not getting any better in case you were wondering. It’s getting harder and harder and harder.
Mel Curtis, director of Anti-Hunger and the YMCA’s Moshannon Valley branch
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Last year, the YMCA of Centre County’s “Backpack Weekend” program put together 32,508 meals for children in the Philipsburg-Osceola, West Branch, Moshannon Valley, Bald Eagle Area, Bellefonte, State College, Glendale and Penns Valley area school districts.
Even then, Curtis, director of Anti-Hunger and the Moshannon Valley branch, said that they’ve probably only reached 10 percent of the kids from food insecure families who qualify for the program.
“It’s not getting any better in case you were wondering. It’s getting harder and harder and harder,” Curtis told the volunteers.
If it sounds like he’s a little down in the dumps, nothing could be further from the truth. Curtis was actually in the process of accepting a $70,000 grant from the Walmart Foundation that he said solidifies the importance of the work done in the “Backpack Weekend” and “Summer Lunch” programs.
Brian Rosenberger, general manager of the Woodland Walmart Distribution Center, arrived with several other employee volunteers — and one of those giant checks — to claim a spot on the assembly line.
It’s helping children in our communities.
“It’s helping children in our communities,” Rosenberger said.
Lisa Turner also took a day off from the Woodland distribution center in adherence to the philosophy that many hands make for light work. She’s volunteered with the program before and called the subsequent feeling wonderful.
“It’s just such a good cause, any cause that helps the children and helps them do better in school,” Turner said.
A few volunteers down from Turner, Pleasant Gap Elementary School Principal Duffy Besch was preoccupied with backpacks of his own. He said there are 30 students in his school who are already utilizing the program and about 170 more spread throughout the State College Area School District.
From his post, Besch can see first hand the impact that a weekend with access to sustainable meals has on students.
“They’re more ready to meet the challenges of the week,” Besch said.