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GO Pantry Food Drive Hopes to Reach Hungry Children in NKY

The holidays aren’t always merry for children battling hunger. 

According to Laura Dumancic, a Union mother of three and founder and director of GO Pantry, holiday break from school can be a daunting time for thousands of hungry children in Northern Kentucky. 

“During the school year, many kids get their only meals at school through free and reduced meal programs,” Dumancic said. “That’s a reliable source of healthy, filling food for many kids. When you take that away during Christmas break, many kids go hungry.” 

Thanks to Go Pantry’s Christmas Break GO Box campaign, hundreds of those children will have enough to eat during the holiday break.

GO Pantry, a local nonprofit organization made up of volunteers, is committed to providing food to these Northern Kentucky children who do not have enough to eat at home over the Christmas holidays.  

“It's good work to be able to help a child in need,” Dumancic said. “Of course, I wish GO Pantry did not have to exist at all.  But, as long as there are hungry kids in our community, we will continue to work hard to get food home for them on days they are not in school. GO Pantry has the important responsibility to be a strong voice for kids in our community struggling with food insecurity.”

To help, you can sign up to “fill” a Christmas Break GO box with items Go Pantry has strategically listed as necessary to cover the time away from school. The deadline is Sunday, Dec. 5. These can be delivered in a “reverse drive thru” manner to one of two area businesses  collecting for GO Pantry, or to the GO Pantry warehouse during a specific  delivery window the first weekend in December. Once everything is collected, it’s  checked for strict expiration date compliance and delivered anonymously to the schools  these kids attend in time for them to take it with them over Christmas Break. 

Drop off times and locations are:

Zimmer Motors, 1086 Burlington Pike, Florence

  • 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Thursday 

  • 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday

  • 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday

  • 1 to 4 p.m. Sunday

Schulz & Sons Jewelers, Kroger Plaza, Fort Mitchell

  • 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday

  • 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday 

Go Pantry Warehouse, 7960 Kentucky Drive, Florence

  • 9 to 11 a.m. or 4 to 6 p.m. Wednesday

  • Noon to 5 p.m. Sunday

More information and GO Pantry “Christmas Break Go Box” shopping lists are available online here.

For the 2021 holiday break, GO Pantry hopes provide a minimum of 1200 children.

While it would be ideal, not all children eligible for the free and reduced lunch program will receive GO Pantry support from the Christmas break campaign, Dumancic said. In Boone & Kenton counties alone, 30 percent of all students (11,000 children) are eligible for the free and reduced lunch program – there are just too many children for the organization to serve. So, she said, foods will go to those identified by their school who have the direst need. 

“In most cases, a teacher has physically recognized that the child is hungry and struggling and identified as truly at risk of not eating on the days they are away from school,” Dumancic said.

Unfortunately, hunger is often overlooked, according to Kelsee Aker, family resource center coordinator at New Haven Elementary School in Boone County. 

“Food insecurity is an issue that is overlooked in general and especially around the holidays,” Aker said. “In general, food insecurity in our area is overlooked because its hidden. You cannot always tell who does and does not have a food insecurity in an area that seems to be so affluent. In addition to this, during the hustle and bustle of the holidays everyone focuses on toys and other fun things and forget the fear some children have of going home to an empty pantry.”

Aker said having the support to the GO Pantry Christmas Box Campaign gives her peace “knowing that we can send our kiddos home with enough food to feed them over their two-week break from school.”

According to Dumancic, proper nutrition is “critical” to a child’s development.  

“Not having enough of the right kinds of food can have serious implications on a child’s physical and mental health, academic achievement and future potential,” she said. “Hungry kids often experience serious health issues, emotional challenges and behavioral problems.  It is hard for a child to learn when their primary focus is hunger. Educators continually reiterate how difficult it is for a child to stay focused in a learning environment when he or she is undernourished. On the flip side, kids with adequate nutrition can soar. Kids participating in GO Pantry programs are doing better in school because of having reliable food provided for them on the weekends and school breaks.” 

GO Pantry currently serves 750 students on a weekly basis, Dumancic said.  The number served during school breaks (Christmas, Spring Break and Summer Break) increases as there are very few resources available to help these kids with food needs over extended school breaks. This year, they will work with more than 50 schools across Northern Kentucky to help more than 1,200 kids. 

“More than toys, there are kids in our community in need of food to get through the school break,” she said. “For those that can help, we challenge you to grab your family, your co-workers, and your friends to help.  Work together to fill as many boxes as you can.  They more food we receive, the more kids we can help. Look past the food items and picture the sweet face of a child in need.  This simple box provides more than just food, it provides hope and shows the love of our great community.”

-Melissa Reinert, RCN contributor