SHINE director Carol Nicholas wanted to find a way to help the students and families of the popular after-school program who were struggling during the pandemic.
In a normal year, the Luzerne County Schools & Homes in Education (SHINE) program at Wilkes University provides after-school education programs for hundreds of students in grades pre-k to 12 throughout Luzerne County. Due to COVID-19, in-person programs went to virtual format in March of 2020.
“When the SHINE was in-person, we were able to provide students with a hot meal as well as homework assistance and participation in STEAM-based projects,” said SHINE director Carol Nicholas. Even though SHINE continued teaching virtually after the onset of COVID-19, students were deprived of the four hot meals they received each week. “We heard from many of our families how they were struggling,” said Nicholas. “They experienced financial difficulties, and food insecurity was a huge problem. It’s so important for students to have good nutrition so they can participate and be attentive in their learning.”
Nicholas had a solution. “Because we moved to virtual programming, we were able to reassign some of our budget to fund the new SHINE food delivery program.” Nicholas and her team partnered with the Mount Zion Baptist Church Food Pantry in Wilkes-Barre; SHINE provides the names of families in need and the funds to purchase the food, and the church staff assembles the boxes and delivers the meals to their doorsteps.
“Through this program, we’ve been able to fund meals to 100 families through the end of the school year,” said Nicholas. Each week, families receive a box with fresh, frozen and pantry staples—enough food for nutritious lunches and dinners for four days. The boxes also contain a food list, a sample menu and even has recipes for each of the meals. “Our families have been so grateful for the food delivery program during this difficult year. And we are so glad the SHINE program was able to help.”