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Photo by Dave Warner – Johnny Wratten, Tamara Razzano, and Jordyan Mueller load meals for young people in the trunk of a car.

In response to COVID-19 related closures that have impacted community-based organizations serving youth, local non-profits and volunteers in Little Falls are teaming up to provide food for young people this summer. Little Falls Community Outreach and Little Falls YMCA, along with LF Volunteer Corps, have developed a nine-week meal packaging and delivery plan that will feed roughly 60 families. Meals include breakfast and lunch seven days a week, as well as dinner for the weekends.

Tamara Razzano, Executive Director of Little Falls Community Outreach, said, “Watching families, who were already struggling, lose their jobs due to the pandemic, we could not turn a blind eye to their need.  Immediately in March, we decided to continue the Food Backpack Program through the summer and we immediately wrote grants to secure funding.  The initial plan was to send the backpacks home through a collaboration with the City of Little Falls Summer Recreation program. We had no idea in March that everything would be shut down through the summer which would affect our ability to provide the Backpacks of food.”

Community Outreach’s Backpack Program began in the fall of 2018 to provide food to students on the weekends and over breaks who are experiencing food scarcity.  To date, the program has served over 3,145 children. For Razzano, the Backpack Program is an important outgrowth of the organization’s mission. “The Little Falls Community Outreach began in 1993 to provide humanitarian service to our community, meeting the needs of children and families.  Over the last 27 years, our programs have evolved to meet the changing needs our of community and now include the Food Backpack Program, Rainbow Club, Senior Lunch and Learn, Banana Splits, Homework Academy, and the Micah Hope Christmas Program as well as our fall fundraising event.”

Tony Deluca of the Little Falls YMCA said that “While not entirely unexpected when we got word that the city’s Summer Recreation program would not be able to open due to COVID-19, we knew we had to pool resources and reach out to the wider community to make sure young people and families would still have access to food. The Summer Recreation program serves roughly 200-250 kids each summer and has been around for decades through the city of Little Falls. The program gives kids fun and safe activities during summer break, but also free lunch for about 45-50 kids per day for seven weeks through a partnership with the YMCA.”

Deluca says that the summer meals through YMCA for the Summer Recreation program started five years ago. “We recognized a need for summer meals through the relationship with school but also with the rise in need presented at the Food Pantry. Integrating meals with this long-standing program was incredibly important to the community.”

Razzano and Deluca say they are thrilled to be able to join efforts to meet this vital need during the pandemic crisis. Jordyan Mueller of LF Volunteer Corps said “There’s a lot of synergy between these organizations. Both entities are deeply committed to helping youth and families. For LF Volunteer Corps, the ability to work together, to bring more volunteers into the fold, means we are building a larger message that Little Falls is a community of care. We are honored to work with such leaders.”

Community members interested in supporting this effort can sign up to help package or make deliveries on the LF Volunteer Corps’ new site: LFVolunteerCorps.com. Each Monday through the end of August, volunteers can pick up meal packages for four families at the Community Room of the First Presbyterian Church at the entrance on Lansing Street, between 10 am and 12 pm. Five routes are available each week. Anyone interested in providing monetary support can submit donations to Community Outreach, 16 Jackson Street, or the Little Falls YMCA, 15 Jackson Street. For questions contact Little Falls Community Outreach at 315-823-1409.