Filling In The Blanks: Combatting Childhood Hunger Locally - Stamford Moms

Filling In The Blanks (FITB) provides food to children at 27 schools and after school programs in Greenwich, Stamford, Norwalk and Bedford, NY. Co-Directors, Tina Kramer and Shawnee Knight say their services become even more critical for these children in the summer months.

The Norwalk-based non-profit provides food on the weekends to children in our area who qualify for the free or reduced lunch programs or are part of the Alice populations (working families that are right above the poverty line but still struggle to get by). Each child participating in the program receives a dietician approved bag of food that contains two breakfast items, two lunch items, four snacks, a veggie, two containers of milk and a fresh piece of fruit. Every week, driver delivers the food to the schools and school programs where the food is then distributed through a school liaison or volunteer to the children on Friday. Tina explains, “Our hope is that with full bellies kids will return to school on Mondays ready to learn and not have to worry about being hungry.”

The program now serves 1,6000 children between ages 3 and 19. In September of 2019, Tina says that number will rise to 2,000 kids weekly, with another immediate 500 identified and looking for support. The new box truck that Filling In The Blanks was able to purchase with funds raised on Fairfield County Giving Day will help them meet that need. “The truck will allow us to remove the 400 children that are currently on the waitlist at schools in Norwalk, Stamford and Greenwich CT,” says Shawnee. “But with our growth, there still is a huge need in these areas  and we will continue to expand in Fairfield to make sure that no child has the worry of where their next meals is coming from,” she continues.

With summer break upon us, Tina says it’s a critical time for those they serve. “Once school is out the risk of hunger is heightened because the school provided breakfast and lunch programs are no longer available. We try to focus on camps that are associated with our school year program, this allows children to have a year round food secure environment,” she explains

Tina and Shawnee started FITB in 2013 after learning that there are 33,000 children in Fairfield County (1 in 6) that are fighting childhood hunger. “Both of us grew up in low income, single parent households and know what it is like to live in a household that struggles with food insecurity,” explains Shawnee. “We didn’t want any child to suffer from food insecurity if we could help it,” she continues. The first program was at Domus in Stamford, with 50 children attending their summer camp, which quickly grew to 100 children. In Stamford alone, the organization now serves 1,000 children at one preschool, nine elementary schools, four middle schools, two high schools, one after school program and six summer camps.

If you’d like to get your family involved, there are several opportunities:

Join a Food Packing Event at the warehouse located at 346 Main Avenue, Norwalk. Volunteers age 7 and up can participate by packing bags of food, in an assembly line fashion, that will go directly into the hands of children in our community. This has become a way for kids to understand that they are helping their peers who they might be playing sports with on the weekends or sitting right next to them at school.

Private Corporate Packing events for up to 40 employees are available. This has proven to be a great team building experience.

Food Kits and Fun at preschools, volunteers hand out the weekend bags of food and with the remaining time read a book or do a craft with the kids.  This program has allowed us to expand the number of participants at each preschools.

Mobile Food Pantry on fourth Saturday of each month FITB sponsors a CT Food Bank Mobile Food Pantry site. The pantry provides fresh produce, dairy and other wholesome foods to up to 750 individuals in need.

Host an Item Collection! Traditional food drives or collection of items for our Holiday Backpack Program. The Holiday Backpack program provides each child with a new backpack, hat, gloves, age appropriate toy and book, socks, pancake mix and syrup. In December FITB will be serving 2,000 children… that’s a lot of toys! And they need your help.

To find out more about our upcoming events this year, visit the FITB website!

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