Youth volunteers fight hunger

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COLUMBIA - Children advocates tackled child hunger through the Kids Helping Kids program on Saturday.

The program was started in 2012 by the Food Bank of Central & Northeast Missouri.

It's an every other month program that allows children ages 4 to 12 to pack cereal to support the Buddy Pack Program.

Melanie Lake, the food bank's volunteer programs coordinator, said during regular volunteer days children under the age of nine are not allowed to volunteer.

"We were recognizing that families just wanted to bring those younger kids into our facility to be part of the repacking project," she said.

The Buddy Pack Program is distributed to children in elementary schools who rely on free or reduced lunch. The packs include two ready to eat entrees, a fruit cup, cereal with shelf-stable milk and a nutritional bar.

Ninety-seven volunteers came to the event and packed about 16,00 pounds of corn flake cereal.

Alijah Griffith, an 11-year-old volunteer, said he was committed to being a good person.

"I came here because I wanted to help the hungry, and I wanted to be selfless and help others," he said.

Lake said the feedback from people who receive the packs is inspirational.

"We will get little notes from children themselves that says 'thank you' because that was the only food I might have had over a weekend. Or 'thank you' because I was able to share my buddy pack food with my brother and sister," she said.

The food bank needs about 5,000 to 10,000 cereal bags each week for the packs. The food bank as a whole feeds about 100,000 people each month.

"There's one in six adults that is food insecure and one in five is a child so the need is great," Lake said.

The next Kids Helping Kids day will take place April 6.

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