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Susquenita Elementary joining Perry County BackPack Program

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Students at Susquenita Elementary School will now join all other elementary students in Perry County in participation of the BackPack Program.

The program, free to all elementary students in the county who sign up, will send students home each Friday throughout the school year with enough food for the weekend, including two breakfasts, two lunches, two dinners and snacks.

"Our school is 42% free and reduced lunch students," says Dr. Rebecca Lorfink, the principal of Susquenita Elementary.

That means over 300 of the school's 800 students battle with food security, falling in line with statistics on Perry County as a whole that say 20% of children 18 and younger live in homes with food insecurity.

"There is no process that they have to go through to prove their income status as a family," says Lorfink. "It's open to any family that's interested in participating."

Sponsored through the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank, the BackPack Programs works with local community organizations and businesses, including Pinnacle Health and the Perry County Food Bank to purchase and gather food donations for the take-home bags. Christina Vorheese, the director of the BackPack Program, says they're currently serving 375 students in Perry County, all through volunteers.

Vorheese says with the addition of Susquenita Elementary to the mix, they're projecting well over 500 students in the 2017-2018 school year, adding up to over $40,000 worth of weekend meals.

Lorfink says it's a true community effort that the school is happy to be strengthening ties with.

"The coordinator for the Perry County elementary schools works with Perry County Food Bank to figure out what's the best prices, what they can afford, what they have in abundance and what meets the needs of the students."

Other Perry County organizations, like Join Hands Ministry, are also stepping up the number of students they're helping this school year.

Michael Burns, the director of Join Hands Ministry, says they'll be assisting over 250 kids, grades K-12, across the county this school year.

"This year, they're gonna get brand new backpacks, school supplies, shoe vouchers," says Burns. "They'll be able to get new shoes and haircuts."

Burns says whole package can add up to $75-$85 per student, providing much needed relief to families who may be struggling financially to get their kids ready for the new school year.

"They only requirement we have here at Join Hands is that they live in Perry County," says Burns. "If they live in Perry County and they have a need, we'll try to help solve it."

The BackPack Program will begin accepting applications for Susquenita Elementary students at the start of the school year.

For more information on the program, you can visit their Facebook page, @PeCoBackPack or reach out at pcbackpack@gmail.com

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