PENN YAN — Childhood hunger affects about 20 percent of Yates County youth under the age of 18.
With that sobering fact in mind, about 90 people — including community residents, local and school officials and numerous KanPak employees — experienced some of what those kids are going through during the second “No Lunch” lunch at Brock’s Bowl & Pizzeria.
Thursday’s event was organized by the GSF (Golden State Foods) Foundation. Golden State Foods is the parent company of KanPak, a producer of dairy and coffee-based products at the Horizon Business Park — across Route 14A from Brock’s — and one of Yates County’s largest employers.
During the one-hour lunch, those who attended got a simple bowl of soup to eat.
“That is so they can understand what these hungry kids are going through on a daily basis,” said Melissa Nolan, chairperson of the GSF Foundation.
The event raises tens of thousands of dollars for Foodlink, a Rochester-based organization that spotlights childhood hunger and aims to end it. Foodlink covers 10 upstate counties, including Yates, and has a BackPack program that includes about 500 Yates County children.
“Kids who have reported food insecurity get backpacks filled with food for weekends and holidays,” said Julie Burke, Foodlink’s director of development. “Our mission is to leverage the power of food to end hunger and build healthier communities. There is no greater example than this event, with a company that makes food products helping those who live here. We are extremely grateful.”
The event featured a video by the GSF Foundation and several speakers including Yates County’s economic developer, Steve Griffin. He was instrumental in KanPak coming to Yates County nearly 10 years ago.
“You can quantify things like capital investment, jobs and wages, but when a company grows and expands it can have an effect like this, which is the social fabric. How do you calculate the impact on a child who may be hungry?” Griffin said. “That kid can go to school on Monday with a full stomach and it affects their ability to learn. This is real corporate stewardship. We are so thankful for this.”
Nolan said the GSF Foundation has been working to stop childhood hunger for nearly 20 years. The foundation held another “No Lunch” Thursday in Kansas, where the company’s headquarters are.
Nolan said Brock’s donated the facility and the soup was donated by Wegmans. There were also numerous corporate sponsors for the event, and KanPak employees — who are known as associates by the company — also raised money through donations and pledges.
“This is where our associates live,” Nolan said. “We want to help the people here in Yates County.”