Hillsboro Elementary is impressive. It sits in the center of the little town of Hillsboro, Ohio and is perhaps one of the most beautiful buildings in the area. The grounds are impeccable and the sidewalks are free of litter. As you enter, it is impossible not to notice the sparkling floors and cheerful colors. Hillsboro Elementary has three distinct academic programs – Early Childhood, Primary and Intermediate – each headed by a young and dynamic principal and with its own unique structure. The school has been a partner to the Freestore Foodbank for many years with more than 150 students currently enrolled in the Power Pack program.

Located in the heart of rural Ohio, the town of Hillsboro has many neighborhoods that are far from affluent. The school has been a supporter of the Power Pack program for many years. Power Packs are packs of food that are distributed to children who show signs of food insecurity to make sure they do not go hungry over the weekend. “The Freestore Foodbanks’s Power Pack program has been a real blessing to our students,” says Jacob Zink Principal of the Primary School. “We have more than 150 students in the program and they depend on it every week.” A child who comes in tired or cranky, who makes repeated attempts to get more food during lunch or who asks for extra food to take home is usually identified as one who may be at risk of being food insecure. “The younger kids are excited when they receive their Power Packs on Fridays and sometimes they want to open them right then and there,” remarks Pam Hollon, who heads up the Early Childhood Program. “Sometimes they tell us they are saving it to share with a younger sibling. That is heartbreaking because then we know there are others at home who are hungry as well.”

The school has a few kids on a wait list. The Freestore Foodbank tries to increase the number of Power Packs they are delivering as often as possible to meet the growing need. When there are extended breaks in the spring or over the holidays, the school tries to double up on the Power Packs to make sure the kids have something to snack on while school is out. “It is obviously not enough to meet the needs of the kids over the entire break. But we do the best we can,” comments Hollon.

It is a different story with the older kids and very often they try to hide the fact that they are hungry. “Many of them are embarrassed and self-conscious when it comes to admitting it,” says Jimmy Rhoades, Principal of the Intermediate Program. “That is when we have to have multiple individuals monitor, observe and refer the kid to the program.” The school is thankful to be able to have this option to offer to children. “We love working with the Freestore Foodbank,” says Zink. “Their local partner is Samaritan Outreach Services, our neighborhood food pantry and they make it easy for us by delivering the Power Packs to our door every week. We cannot be happier with this arrangement and we appreciate the support very much.”

Unfortunately, childhood hunger is a very real problem for many of our neighbors. Food insecurity is a term that means little until you walk into a school and come eye to eye with young students who face hunger every day. Unfortunately many children and their families depend on local schools for food as well as education. School breakfasts, lunches and after-school meals play a major role in their lives. Weekends present a fresh set of challenges because in the absence of school meals kids are left with few options. This led to the creation of programs such as the Freestore Foodbank’s Power Pack program. The Freestore Foodbank delivers Power Packs to over 100 schools in the region to help alleviate the problem of childhood poverty and hunger and we welcome the opportunity to work with local schools to solve the problem of childhood hunger. To learn more about our Power Pack program click here.