New food pantry working to ‘crush hunger’ in the Parkland area
A new food pantry — Parkland Community Aid Reaching Every Student— will open its doors June 19 at 5074 Kernsville Road, Unit 4, Orefield.
Katrina Sundstrom, executive director with Parkland C.A.R.E.S. said the food pantry, down the road from Kernsville Elementary School, began as a simple food drive to honor one of Parkland’s own.
Sundstrom, her husband Rich, daughter Sydni and son A.J. held a food drive to honor late bus driver Gary Smith.
“Mr. Smith was so much more than a bus driver to my family,” Sundstrom stated. “Having moved to Pennsylvania in January 2011, Mr. Smith became a friend and a bit of a grandfather figure to my children.”
She said her family had the pleasure of Smith driving her children to and from school for five and a half years.
“After his passing in 2016, my family attended his service where we watched a video celebrating his life,” Sundstrom said. “Having known from our own interactions with him what a wonderful man he was, nothing would prepare us for what we saw in that video.
“Image after image showed Mr. Smith was a man who gave to his family, his church and his community. His giving spirit was one that touched all of us that day.”
After the service, her family spoke fondly of Smith and how they would do their best to give back to their community the way he did.
“As the year anniversary of his passing approached, my family decided we had to do something to celebrate his life,” Sundstrom said. “What better way to honor him than to give back to our own community and to the schools Mr. Smith drove to and from each day?”
As the family sat at the dinner table one summer night, they decided to hold a food drive in his honor.
Sundstrom and her husband drafted a letter describing Smith and the man he was.
“In the letter we asked our neighbors to donate breakfast items to help those in need,” she said. “We also asked Mr. Smith’s church if it would take part.”
With members of Smith’s church and their own neighborhood, Sundstrom collected enough food to feed 25 families at Fogelsville Elementary School.
In addition to the food donated to Fogelsville, there was enough left over to deliver to Springhouse Middle School.
While at Springhouse, Sundstrom met Joelle Strahler.
“Strahler had begun a Snack Pack program at Springhouse and was grateful for the donation,” she said. “We shared a passion for giving back to the community and for fighting hunger in the Parkland area.
“In a few months’ time, the vision for Parkland C.A.R.E.S. Food Pantry was created and put in motion.”
Sundstrom said the food pantry strives to feed and serve every member of the school community affected by and suffering from hunger.
“Our vision is to alleviate hunger one family at a time,” Sundstrom said.
Parkland C.A.R.E.S., a nonprofit organization run by volunteers, was created to help in the fight against hunger in the Parkland area.
“With over 9,000 students attending school in Parkland, 27 percent of those children are experiencing some level of food insecurity,” Sundstrom stated. “In an effort to provide aid to the families Parkland C.A.R.E.S. operates as a client choice food pantry.
“Giving the families the opportunity to choose their own food gives them a sense of dignity and control, limits possible waste, and gives them an opportunity to shop the pantry for items that best suits their needs.”
Farmers and Hunters Feeding the Hungry donated approximately 120 pounds of steer and venison meat to the food pantry.
“We are going to partner with local farmers to provide fruits and vegetables and Back Home Bagels, Route 309, Schnecksville is donating bagels,” she stated. “A majority of our food will be coming from Second Harvest Food Bank.
“The Community C.A.R.E.S. Closet will have toiletry, school and winter items for families.”
In addition to the food pantry, Parkland C.A.R.E.S. has partnered with the Allentown West Rotary Club to distribute 250 Snack Packs filled with food and personal care items to children at 10 Parkland schools per month, Sundstrom said.
The Snack Packs will be available at the food pantry 9-11 a.m. Thursdays for every child who lives in the Parkland area.
“We have a monthly recurring giving program committed to crushing hunger,” Sundstrom stated. “For less than a dollar a day your donation will provide 44 meals for a child.”
Parkland C.A.R.E.S. Food Pantry will be open 10 a.m. to noon on the second and fourth Wednesday of each month.
Come September, the food pantry will be open one Saturday a month from 10 a.m. to noon.
To donate, volunteer or for information, visit parklandcaresfp.org, call 484-707-1133 or email Sundstrom at Katrina@parklandcaresfp.org.