Help 4 Kids Florence hopes to fill the hunger gap for children in Florence County schools who are identified as being “food insecure.” According to the Food Research and Action Center, children who receive free or reduced lunch may live in food insecure homes.
South Carolina is number seven nationally for states facing the worst food hardship. Since 2013, Help 4 Kids has provided food bags to help children who may not get enough meals outside of school.
“One out of four children in Florence County is hungry. The children that we feed are identified by their schools as being food insecure. That means they may or may not have enough to eat,” said Help 4 Kids President Diane Welsh.
The organization now provides 2,438 meal bags to 33 schools in all five Florence County School Districts. It also started helping children in Dillon who were affected by the hurricane.
To provide the food bags, Help 4 Kids depends on grants and donations.They purchase the food from KJ’s Food Market and ALDI’s.Pepsi-Cola then delivers it to their warehouse for free.
With over 100 volunteers, they meet on Thursdays to put it all together. One volunteer said it’s a way to spend her time doing something positive.
“If I can help all these people, and I’m just 11, imagine if everybody just pitched in a little bit what we could achieve as a world,” said Lily Merzlak.
The Florence Wine and Food Festival has played a tremendous role in raising funds for Help 4 Kids. Last year, the non-profit received $23,000 from the festival to use towards fighting hunger. Sometimes the organization packs double bags if kids are going on a school break.
“They’re away from the school lunches and breakfast programs, so some of them don’t have much to eat,” said Welsh.