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February 13, 2015

Last week, seventy-eight local schoolchildren and their families learned an important lesson about giving back. They "packed the pantry," filling grocery bags for their homebound elderly neighbors who are too frail or sick to shop for themselves. Pack the Pantry is an initiative conceived by Danielle Valenti Smith, Co-Chair of the Citymeals Young Professionals Committee.

The children – ranging in age from 5 to 12 years old – packed up 118 bags with shelf-stable items like chicken noodle soup, pasta and applesauce at The Carter Burden Center for the Aging. The bags were then loaded into our Mobile Food Pantry van for delivery. The Mobile Food Pantry was launched in 2011 to provide supplementary meals to those who are most at-risk for malnourishment. In Fiscal Year 2014, the Mobile Food Pantry delivered 54,182 meals.

Pack the Pantry introduces kids to community service in a fun and playful way. After packing the bags, the children created special greeting cards that will be hand-delivered – along with a nutritious meal – to older New Yorkers across the city. Citarella also donated cookies for the children to decorate. In addition to the shelf-stable food donation, the event raised enough to fund the preparation and delivery of more than 250 meals.

"It is essential to teach children the importance of community service and helping others who are right in our own neighborhood. With that belief, Pack the Pantry was born," explained Valenti Smith.

"Citymeals relies on our amazing team of volunteers," Beth Shapiro, Executive Director of Citymeals, noted. "Teaching kids about volunteerism is an important lesson that will benefit not only the frail aged we are nourishing today, but also many older New Yorkers in years to come. Thank you to all the children, their families and Danielle Valenti Smith for showing their commitment to our most vulnerable neighbors."