Is there a weekend hunger gap for kids in YOUR town?

I was shocked to learn that many children across the country don’t know where their next meal is coming from. During the school week, students in need have access to free or reduced lunches, but what about dinners, weekends and meals during school breaks? My home state of Connecticut is one of the wealthiest states, however there is at least one food pantry in nearly every town. One in five children under age 18 is hungry or food insecure…that’s approximately 155,000 children right here in my backyard. My wife and I were startled and saddened by these statistics. As the parents of three young girls, we don’t want any child wondering where their next meal is going to come from.

This unexpected reality has prompted the food pantry in our town, the Branford Food Pantry a 100% volunteer-based, donation driven organization, to launch the Feed Branford Kids program. This initiative, which is in partnership with the Branford Public Schools, discretely provides kids in need with backpacks filled with non-perishable, kid-friendly foods that can be consumed during the weekend. The goal is to fill the weekend hunger gap that too often exists for developing children.

My wife and I are supporting this program through our family’s non-profit foundation. But we know that helping children in Branford is just one small step in fighting this challenge that is growing across the United States. We want to make others aware that this is a real issue that is facing children in your backyard today.

It doesn’t take much to make a big difference. Below are some tips and resources for how to get involved, whether you’re right here in Connecticut or across the country.

How you can help:

Find the local food pantry in your neighborhood. You can volunteer your time, drop off non-perishable goods or make a financial donation. Or you can start your own food drive to collect items in need. Every bit of help you can provide will make a difference in the lives of people right in your backyard.

If you’re in Branford, CT consider giving back to the Branford Food Pantry. This 100% volunteer based organization is committed to finding new ways to help people of all ages in the Branford community. Visit them online at http://www.branfordfoodpantry.org/.

If you’re in another Connecticut town, a great resource is the Connecticut Food Bank. They support local food pantries throughout the state. You can also support their Back Pack Program that’s currently serving students at 100 schools by going here: http://www.ctfoodbank.org/connecticut-food-bank-programs/kids-back-pack. Or search their listing of local food pantries here: http://www.ctfoodbank.org/store-locator

If you’re outside of Connecticut, a great resource is Feeding America. You can visit their website and find out more about local pantries and soup kitchens here: http://www.feedingamerica.org/find-your-local-foodbank/

My wife and I hope that you’re inspired to start making a change in your own community. We always teach our girls that giving back starts at home and what better way than taking care of the children that live closest to us. The holiday season is always a wonderful time to give back and it's clear that the children around us have needs that continue throughout the entire year.

Kamran Farid is the Co-Founder and Former Chief Operating Officer of Edible Arrangements International. The Kamran Farid Foundation, inspired by his mother, helps identify and support unmet and often unrecognized needs in communities around the world.  Follow Kamran on Twitter @kamranf or connect with Kamran Farid on LinkedIn.