Power Packs to hit the road Saturday: Meals to be delivered to hundreds of children

  • Paul Davis and his wife, Jan, right, of Easthampton, prepare packages of food with the help of Shelley March, left, who is the founder of Pioneer Valley Power Packs, Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2019 at St. Philip's Episcopal Church in Easthampton. Gazette file photo

Staff Writer
Published: 11/21/2020 1:27:39 PM
Modified: 11/21/2020 1:27:25 PM

EASTHAMPTON — Pioneer Valley Power Packs will hold a major food distribution on Saturday, with the goal of feeding hundreds of children.

“We want to help as many kids as we possibly can,” said Pioneer Valley Power Packs Executive Director and Founder Shelley March. “Our goal is to feed 600 kids.”

Pioneer Valley Power Packs, a nonprofit, was formed to provide food to children over the weekends during the school year, a time when students don’t have access to school meals.

The program was piloted at Maple Elementary School last school year, and it was during this pilot that the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Before the pandemic, the food was distributed to students at school, but after in-person schooling was shut down the program soon shifted to delivering food to the houses of participating students.

This school year the program is serving students at Maple, Pepin and Center schools, as well as students at White Brook Middle School.

“We have 112 kids in our program right now,” said March.

For students who live in Easthampton, March said that volunteers deliver the food weekly on Fridays.

“They drive around all over the place,” said March.

And for school choice students who attend Easthampton schools but live in communities such as Greenfield and Longmeadow, March delivers a month’s supply of power packs every month herself.

Each power pack consists of two breakfasts, two lunches, two snacks and a family meal. March said that a family meal began to be included this school year in recognition of the impact of COVID-19, as well as to help kids provide for their families.

Special power packs that conform to religious, allergy or lifestyle dietary restrictions are also available. “We special pack them and we special handle those,” said March.

Eligibility for the program loosely follows the criteria for getting free or discounted meals at school, but March said that at this point its available for any family in the schools that it serves that wants it. Those wishing to sign up should contact their school’s principal.

Saturday’s food distribution will take place at St. Phillip’s Episcopal Church, where Pioneer Valley Power Packs is headquartered, from 9 a.m. to noon. It will feature sample power packs that will each include a family meal, and those who come will receive one power pack for each child 18 or younger present, with no requirement that they be enrolled in the program.

Clare Boyd, the volunteer coordinator for St. Phillip’s, said that a lot of church members will be volunteering for the distribution. “People in our parish are really excited to be involved,” said Boyd.

She also said that some parish members have been involved with Pioneer Valley Power Packs since it started operating out of the church’s property.

Pioneer Valley Power Packs is looking for volunteer drivers, and those who want to learn more can visit the group’s website at www.pioneervalleypowerpacks.org.

Bera Dunau can be reached at bdunau@gazettenet.com.

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