In three years, Provision Packs has grown from servicing 3 families in Pathways Elementary to providing meals for over 200 kids in Ormond Beach.
When Ormond Beach resident Carrie Torres volunteered at her daughter’s second grade pajama pancake party at Pathways Elementary, she was shocked to hear of a couple kids in the classroom that were allowed to have as many pancakes as they wanted because that would be the only meal they would be able to eat that day.
“Childhood hunger isn’t defined by a zip code,” Torres said.
She said the experience was “eye-opening,” and inspired her to do something about it. Torres then started Provision Packs, a nutrition backpack program that services three local schools: Pathways Elementary, Tomoka Elementary an Ormond Beach elementary — where the program will be first introduced this school year. Volunteers gather at the pantry on Thursday and pack the bags for the children to receive on Friday at school. The kids receive enough food to prepare meals for the weekend — two breakfasts, two lunches, three dinners and snacks. During extended breaks, the program makes sure the kids have enough food for the time they will be out, as well as information on where to find food in case they need more.
Provision Packs started with just three families in Pathways. Three years later, the program now services 200-300 families in Ormond Beach.
Torres said she had an experience meeting one child who benefits from the program where she asked him what he would like to eat.
“He said ‘It doesn’t matter, I haven’t eaten in two days,’” Torres said.
She said Ormond Beach currently has a 25% need for nutritional assistance, despite the community being considered affluent.
“It may not be the biggest need, but it’s here,” Torres said. “We have an opportunity to stomp it out and that’s what we’re trying to do.”
Thanks to sponsorships with businesses and the program’s partnership with Second Harvest, it costs just $5 to put each bag together for the children. In turn, the children receive $20 worth of food.
Torres said her mother sometimes struggled with putting balanced meals together for her family growing up, but that mealtime was important. Her hope is to help reduce childhood hunger in Ormond Beach and let the people of the community who need help in that regard that they’re not alone.
“Maybe it’s a dream that I have,” Torres said. “I have hope that these children not only receive the nutrition, but they receive a message that they’re important, and we value them.”