OSSINING, N.Y. – Without help from an Ossining non-profit, dozens of children in the area would be hungry during the dog days of summer.
For nearly three years, the IFCA Housing Network has provided 30 families in Ossining and the surrounding areas with “food backpacks” every other week during the summer months. The bags are packed at the Food Bank of Westchester in Elmsford and include essential food items for children of underprivileged families. Children under the age of 18 who receive free or reduced price lunches in school are eligible for the program.
While the Ossining School District provides many children with free or reduced priced lunches during the school year, Valerie Canosa said the lack of a regular school food program leads to many difficulties for area families.
“They need this, especially during the summer,” said Canosa, IFCA’s director of programs and services. “Our low-income families count on their kids getting those free meals at school. So in the summer when school is out those kids are home all day and it’s too much for the parents and they simply can’t afford it. Summer is a really, really hard time for them. A lot of us go on vacation in the summer and it’s a great time, but for people who are low-income, it’s a very hard time for them.”
But Canosa and others at IFCA have discovered more ways to make the program a community staple. Deputy Director Debra Descloux said the group’s volunteers recently grew with the partnership with special needs young adults who attend an employment preparation program at the Devereux School.
“It’s a great partnership to provide for these kids and it’s been great for the folks at the Devereux School,” Descloux said. “They have been tremendously helpful to us and it’s easy to see how much they enjoy making the kids who come in for the program happy.”
The new school year is right around the corner, but Canosa said space is still available for eligible families.
“We will take anyone in Westchester. As long as their kids are getting free or reduced-price lunches during the school year, we would be happy to take on more families,” she said. “This entire program has been a wonderful partnership and it’s meant a lot to the families. If any other families want to join, just call me and I’ll get you signed up.”
Those interested in joining the program are asked to call Canosa at (914) 941-5252 ext. 13.