“There is always a need to help those that are less fortunate but particularly this year we wanted to do something,” says Mr. Jamie Dibbern, who is the Science Department chair at LHS and the Key Club advisor. With the food shortage this year due to COVID-19, LHS has been organizing several food drives to help those who are struggling.
This December, LHS conducted a food drive through a joint effort by the LHS Key Club, Mr. John Williams’ English classes, and the LHS student government. The first weekend of the food drive, on December 12th, three pickup trucks worth of donations were collected, and about the same amount the following weekend. “It was wonderful to see the staff, students, and community members come out to support the cause,” says Mr. Dibbern. The food will be delivered to Springfield Open Pantry, the Longmeadow Senior Center, and Rachel’s Table.
Rachel’s Table, an organization that runs out of the JCC in Springfield, is another way LHS students have been contributing to the fight against food shortages. Rachel’s Table’s mission is to alleviate hunger and reduce food waste in the community. Each week, local supermarkets, restaurants, caterers and bakeries donate food, and volunteers deliver it to more than 40 organizations in the community.
Keely Kivel, a senior at LHS, is the Co-Vice President of Rachel’s Table’s teen board. The teen board has held many events to raise awareness about food insecurity and to battle this issue in the community. In November, the teen board delivered 250 backpacks filled with food to children who would not have access to school lunches over the Thanksgiving break. “Seeing the amount of food we were able to give to kids in need honestly made me tear up, and to think they wouldn’t have gotten the food if the teen board hadn’t come together is devastating,” says Keely.
More recently, on December 20th, the teen board participated in the annual Food-Raiser, which was held virtually this year. Over one hundred people, many of them LHS students, took part in shopping for food products online. The food was then donated to multiple food banks around the area including Franklin County Community Meals Program, the Amherst Survival Center, and Providence Ministries.
“One key thing I’ve learned is that there is enough food out there, just not enough systems in place to get it to the people in need,” says Keely. Areas where there is limited access to healthy and affordable food are called “food deserts”. Food deserts usually have more fast food restaurants than grocery stores, more highly processed foods, and less fresh fruits and vegetables. When people don’t have access to transportation outside of their community to buy food, they are limited to the unhealthy food in their neighborhood. There are many food deserts found across the U.S., included Springfield, MA.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, the number of people experiencing food insecurity has greatly increased. In 2018, 1 in 7 children were experiencing hunger. Now, in 2020, 1 in 4 children face this growing problem. Helping the food insecure can be as simple as spreading the word, doing some research on this issue, or donating to a local food bank. Mr. Dibbern believes that everyone can benefit from this: “People who are struggling and are food insecure will be fed and be given something they need, and those of us who are more fortunate have an opportunity to feel good and less helpless by helping those who need it.”