By Jessica Bagley firstname.lastname@example.org
The Tonawanda News
Tonawanda News — Local Boys & Girls Clubs thanked state lawmakers Wednesday evening for their efforts in obtaining a $750,000 grant that will help feed and educate disadvantaged children.
The club hosted the event at the Franklin Clubhouse in the City of Tonawanda to announce the new, direly needed programs.
“Maziarz took the lead to make this happen,” said Phil Penichter, Boys & Girls Club of the Northtowns’ chief professional officer. “Along with Assemblyman Robin Schimminger and state Sen. Mark Grisanti, Western New York stood up and made this a reality for the entire state.”
The $750,000 will be broken up between Boys & Girls Clubs throughout New York. Penichter said he expects local clubs will receive somewhere between $70,000 and $90,000.
The first-time grant will provide 15,000 children across the state with daily, hot meals for one year.
“The kids will also have the ability to take home food home with them to their families,” Penichter said. “It is often the only meal they get until free breakfast the next morning at school.”
The money will also allow clubs to hold sessions to educate kids on how to prepare nutritious meals and why eating healthy is important.
“This will be done in a realistic fashion ... we’ll do in light of what they have available,” Penichter said.
The clubs hope to keep the program going when grant money runs out and the year expires, Penichter said. Once the program is up and running, the group will ask organizations and companies, such as Wegmans and Tops, to sponsor the initiative.
“It’s not our goal to go back to the legislature and ask them to keep funding us,” he said. “We hope to create partnerships with companies and nonprofits when this grant ends ... folks that have a vested interest in nutrition.”
Both Penichter and Maziarz spoke to the importance of the grant Wednesday night at the event.
“The Boys & Girls Clubs in Western New York provide many resources and services to the youth in our communities, and it is important that the kids continue to get the assistance they need,” Maziarz said.
Penichter pointed out the startling child poverty statistics in the state. More than 900,000 children in the state are below the poverty line, he said, and child poverty is at at its highest rate since 2004.
“One in six children live in a home where there isn’t enough food to serve adequate meals,” he said. “So that is the reason why we are doing this.”
Lessons on healthy eating have already begun, too. After the event’s thank you speeches, the lawmakers, including Maziarz, Grisanti and Schimminger, rolled up their sleeves and cooked and ate nutritious meals with kids.
“We are just planting the seed with kids that healthy cooking is a smart thing to do,” Penichter said.
Contact reporter Jessica Bagley at 693-1000 ext. 4150, or follow her on Twitter @JessicaLBagley.