“In this week’s Torah portion, [Parshat] Vayigash, Joseph designs a system to respond to famine in Egypt,” said Diane Schilit, RC co-founder. “Inspired by Joseph’s initiative in tackling hunger, we are supporting an organization dedicated to eliminating the growing problem of weekend childhood hunger. [BHP] bridges the gap between Friday and Monday by providing weekend food packages to children identified as food insecure, in a compassionate and dignified manner.”
RC is a network of individuals who sign up to donate a dollar per day, with the collective funds going to a different non-profit each week. BHP was founded by Executive Director Lynne B. Kahn almost ten years ago, in an effort to feed hungry children. Originally, Kahn was making meals for women’s shelters with about 20 families. When she went to the shelters to distribute the meals, “the kids came running over asking ‘Are you the lunch lady?’” Kahn said. “They were different from their peers, without a lunch to bring, but then they were like everybody else with a lunchbag. I started thinking: ‘Everyone focuses on Monday through Friday, but what happens to them on the weekend?’”
So Kahn started focusing on bringing kids weekend meals to sustain them until Monday. Sometimes the meals are all they have, “other times it supplements what their families can give them.”
BHP feeds about 620 kids in four schools, with a long waiting list. They feed 5% to 7% of kids in need, according to Kahn. In a school of 400, BHP supports 25 kids, but Kahn wants to provide more.
The group includes can openers and cutlery in the lunch bags, too.
“One of our guidance counselors told us a kid was looking in the faculty lounge for cutlery,” said Kahn. “He didn’t have cutlery. So now, each bag includes silverware.”
They also have information resources in the bags for what to do if a family’s utilities are turned off, if someone needs mental healthcare, and how to sign up for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits.
“Our tagline is ‘feeding bodies and minds,’” said Kahn.
Going forward, Kahn explains that “One of our goals is to feed children year-round, not just during the school year.”