Holzer Donation

Donors from Holzer Health System provided nearly a ton of peanut butter and jelly supplies to the project in 2019. Donations of food will not be excepted in 2020 because of COVID-19.

A long-standing supplemental nutrition program ran by Athens County Children Services will return in 2020, the agency announced Friday, May 15.

The 13th Annual Peanut Butter and Jelly Project will continue this year to help feed children in Athens County, despite the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Due to poverty levels in the county, many children in Athens see a gap in feeding when school lets out for the summer. Many children are fed breakfast and lunch at school, often qualifying for free or at least reduced-price meals. The Peanut Butter and Jelly Project was started to help bridge that gap. The project is administered through weekly food distribution sites located around the county in June and July.

During this pandemic, districts have been able to maintain a food distribution schedule to reach families at home while school is operating remotely. Many districts in Athens County have been using bus routes to deliver food and school work. However, many of those deliveries will stop with the official end of the school year.

“Now, more than ever, our families are coping with so much uncertainty and hardship and are struggling to have enough food in the home,” said Mandy Wright, School Outreach Supervisor for ACCS, in a press release. “That reality has reinforced our commitment to providing access to food, and we are so grateful to be able to do so when our communities need it the most.”

Wright noted that the pandemic has created some challenges for the typical way the program is run, but through creative problem solving, staff have tried to anticipate any hiccups and new restrictions.

Wright explained that community members who show up to pick up food will be required to follow physical distancing guidelines — staying at least six feet apart — and will be strongly encouraged to utilize a face covering while interacting with staff and volunteers.

In addition to food sourcing challenges, the agency says the pandemic is changing the way they are able to accept donations from the community.

“At this time, we are not able to accept donations of peanut butter and jelly from the community,” said Robin Webb, ACCS Public Information Officer. “One of our favorite aspects of this project has been seeing all the creative ways our community gets involved, but to protect the health of our staff, volunteers, the families we serve, and the community at large, we are not going to be holding collection drives throughout our community as we have in the past.”

Members of our community who would like to contribute to this project are encouraged by the agency to make a financial contribution. Donations can be mailed to ACCS, PO Box 1046, Athens, OH 45701, or sent online at athensohpbj.blogspot.com.

The PB&J project will run every Thursday, from June 4 through July 30. ACCS will have a distribution site set up starting at 11 a.m. through 1 p.m. or until supplies run out, at Alexander Local School District’s campus, The Plains Elementary School, Amesville Elementary School, Trimble Elementary School, the Coolville Public Library, and at the Nelsonville Park near the pool.

For further information, email Robin Webb at robin.webb@jfs.ohio.gov.

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