Social Work Students Fighting Food Insecurity in the Back Mountain

Melanie Quintanilla, Multimedia Editor

   The Department of Social Work is joining forces with an Edwardsville restaurateur and Metz Culinary Management to provide meals for needy children in the Back Mountain.

   Social work students will hold the first fundraiser for the Dinners For Kids program March 20 from 4 to 9 p.m. at Ole Tyme Charley’s.

   All proceeds will benefit the Dinners for Kids Program, which provides nutritionally balanced meals for children in need in in the Wyoming Valley West and Dallas School districts. The program was founded in 2011 by Ollie’s Restaurant owners David and Edna Tevet. The Tevets contacted the university to ask if social work students could join them to provide more meals to meet the significant need.

   Students will help provide meals prepared by Metz Culinary Management to children in the Dallas School District as part of a second branch of Dinners for Kids located in the Back Mountain.

   “The second branch will start off serving 40 children from the Dallas School district who are food insecure.  We will provide meals to these students six times a week for the entire year and beyond.  In the future, as the program grows, we hope to increase the number of students we serve in the Dallas school district and to ultimately expand to other neighboring school districts,” said student intern for Dinner for Kids, Catherine Barnes.

   Social work students created and developed the benefit fundraiser.

   “Social Work students and Misericordia are affiliated with Dinners for Kids because some of our students complete their junior and senior field internships in the program,” said Elizabeth Saba, co-chair for this event.

   The fundraiser will feature three bands, After Hours, No Vacancy, and Dead Giveaway. All-you-can-eat pizza wings will be available and there will be basket giveaways, a bake sale of homemade treats, and the chance to win door prizes.

   “The planning has consisted of the logistics that go into organizing an event of this size from securing the venue and organizing the entertainment, contacting local businesses for donations, countless man hours drafting letters, advertisements and awareness to the event itself,” said Barnes.

   Donations include bowling passes and packages from Chacko’s Bowling and Stanton Lanes. There are also gift cards to local restaurants, pubs, eateries, and clothing stores. NEPA tours is providing a $500 “Create Your Own Trip” certificate.

   “We’re working on so many more. The baskets we have to raffle are from individual donors as well as businesses. We have received a dental hygiene basket from Benco Dental and a baked goods basket from Perkins, just to name a few. From individuals we have movie baskets, car wash baskets, Willy Wonka baskets, candle baskets, taco and Italian baskets, and lottery baskets,” said Saba.

   The event also provides a forum for individuals to learn about childhood hunger on a local level rather than nationally.

   “I think a lot of people are unaware of the childhood hunger crisis in Luzerne County.  We look around and we don’t see it in our own everyday life but I assure you that it is there. Over 10,500 children in Luzerne county are food insecure and do not know where their next meal is coming from.   An individual who attended can expect to learn how common and prevalent childhood hunger is here in our county.  Over 24% of students in the Dallas school district, right in our own backyard, are food insecure,” said Barnes.

   Saba said hunger prevents kids from learning and thriving. “Kids don’t get a say, they can’t advocate for themselves, and many times don’t know how to express what they are feeling or are embarrassed to say they don’t eat at home. In purchasing a ticket to this event, you are making a donation to Dinners For Kids. You are providing the program with the ability to help more children in Luzerne County eat healthy, nutritious meals. These kids need a chance, and who doesn’t want to help children get that chance?” said Saba.

   Juniors in the social work program have played an integral role in helping get the event off the ground and raising $10,000.

   “They helped create the flyer that you will see hanging up on campus, they helped in creating the invitation letter, and they worked with the Misericordia print shop to send out over 500 mailers to possible sponsors and patrons. Now we are selling tickets and gathering donations,” Saba said,

   Students will sell tickets to the benefit on March 1, 3, 15, and 17 in the Banks Center from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. The cost is $15 dollars per ticket. The event is for people of the age of 18 and older. Transportation will be available the day of the event.