When Chocolate Pudding makes all the Difference in the World

Mediaon August 3rd, 2017Comments Off on When Chocolate Pudding makes all the Difference in the World

When Chocolate Pudding makes all the Difference in the WorldThe little seven-year-old sported a wrinkled shirt, stained shorts, worn sneakers and dirty socks. His brown hair was tussled. The blue and orange stains on his hands told me he’d been coloring. His eyes filled with tears and his lips quivered as he whispered, “I just want some chocolate pudding.” Cathy Pedro knelt down, looked him in the eye and nodded in total understanding. “I think we can make that happen, Jimmy,” she said matter-of-factly. After rummaging around in the back closet, Cathy reemerged holding a brown paper bag. It was a Power Pack, the pack of food that the Freestore Foodbank sends home with students so they have something to eat over the weekend. “I checked and this one has chocolate pudding in it,” Cathy said as she placed the bag gently in the little boy’s arms. “You will love it.”  Jimmy hugged the bag to his chest like a prized treasure. The next time Cathy went grocery shopping she remembered to pick up a pack of Hershey’s chocolate pudding for Jimmy.

When Chocolate Pudding makes all the Difference in the WorldCathy Pedro is the Family Resource Center Coordinator at Ludlow Independent Schools in Northern Kentucky. Small and daintily built, her delicate appearance belies her fortitude of spirit and kindness of heart. Cathy has worked in the school district for 25 years. Her primary job is to address issues other than academic challenges that might impair a child’s ability to succeed such as hunger, poverty or domestic discord.  With 70% of students on the free or reduced lunch program and more than a quarter getting free breakfast, Cathy has her hands full at Ludlow.

As I walk down the hallway, I see that summer has transformed the school – desks and chairs are stacked to the ceiling, custodians shuffle down the hallway with keys jingling from their hips and maintenance folks teeter on ladders everywhere. It’s the middle of July and school is out.  Summer is officially here. Efforts are underway to clean from top to bottom, fix anything that is broken and catch up on stuff that did not get done during the year.  Tucked away in the back of the school, removed from the disarray, is a small cheerful room with bright red cabinets and spotlessly clean countertops. This is the Ludlow School Pantry  – Freestore Foodbank’s pilot project that makes food available to low-income families on school campuses in order to give them direct access to fresh and nutritious food.

When Chocolate Pudding makes all the Difference in the WorldLudlow School Pantry opened its doors in November 2016.  The pantry carries fresh fruits and vegetables, frozen meat, bread, shelf-stable items and personal hygiene products – all supplied by the Freestore Foodbank.  The school pantry has been a real blessing to the families. “It is not easy for individuals whether they are adults or children to ask for help,” Cathy comments. “Students avoid it in general. Some of them stop coming after a couple visits because they feel embarrassed. Many parents come to the pantry without letting their kids know. Parents work with one another and try to keep it a secret,” Cathy adds.

When Chocolate Pudding makes all the Difference in the WorldLisa Edwards is a single mother on disability.  Lisa has twin boys who will be sophomores at Ludlow High School this year. Like other teenagers, the twins are constantly hungry. “We go through boxes and boxes of cereal and many jars of peanut butter,” Lisa remarks. “When you are on a limited budget, it is not possible to always have nutritious food available. I truly appreciate the help I get from the school pantry. It allows me to offer my boys meat and pasta which I would not be able to afford on my own.”

When Chocolate Pudding makes all the Difference in the WorldLisa gets easy recipes from the school pantry and she also trades recipes with the other parents who visit. “I plan my meals according to what I can find at the pantry. If I can get cream of chicken soup, pasta and canned tuna from the pantry, I make tuna casserole that week,” she says. Little things make a huge difference. She points to the bottle of Hershey’s chocolate syrup in her hand and says, “My boys absolutely love vanilla ice cream with chocolate syrup on it. In their eyes, that is the ultimate dessert. I am so thankful to have this support.” =

When Chocolate Pudding makes all the Difference in the WorldChildhood hunger is a very real issue in America. Kids who don’t get enough to eat do poorly in school and have a hard time focusing. Power Packs ensure that children have access to food during the weekend. During the summer months when school is out kids suffer in the absence of school breakfast and lunch programs. School pantries ensure that low-income families have direct access to nutritious foods.  The Freestore Foodbank currently operates 15 school pantries in Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana. To support Freestore Foodbank’s efforts to end childhood hunger go to http://bit.ly/2f5UGfN