Nick McWilliams reporting – While the COVID pandemic has been rough on the Tuscarawas United-Feeding our Future program, the group continues to provide for local children while helping at-risk youth.

Although TUFF Bags has seen considerable challenges during the pandemic, volunteers have continued to work each week, with donations still coming in.

Coordinator Lisa Walker says that participating student totals have fluctuated due to schools being in and out of session, with heavy focus placed on volunteer safety and adhering to health guidelines.

“The volunteers have done an amazing job at following those protocols. We’ve worked really hard at keeping everyone safe and healthy. We’ve been very fortunate and very blessed that our volunteers just continue to show up week after week and pack the bags. It’s definitely a community effort.”

She notes that donations have continued to flow at a steady pace, along with volunteer numbers.

Walker notes bags are still distributed weekly to participating districts, and offered thanks to all administration for being flexible during an unusual time.

Given changes to daily schedules for students, the need still remains for youths who don’t always know where their next meal is coming from.

“There’s more than 4,200 kids in Tuscarawas County who deal with food insecurity. Those statistics were pre-pandemic. We don’t have the numbers yet for what that looks like during the pandemic. I can only think that those numbers have gone up, because we see it in our adult population with unemployment going up like it has.”

Slots are still open to volunteer for packing days, which can be found by visiting www.volunteersignup.org/YLDQP.

Monetary donations can be made to United Way of Tuscarawas County, Attn: TUFF Bags at 1458 5th St NW New Philadelphia.

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