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School supply donations needed now more than ever

Bethlehem Food Pantry now serving 1,600, triple from 18 months ago

It might seem like school just let out for the summer, but before too long, it's going to be time for back-to-school shopping.

That's especially true for families in need. For an increasing number of local parents, outfitting growing children with clothes and finding a seemingly ever-increasing list of classroom supplies can be a real challenge.

That's why for the past 20 years or so, the Bethlehem Food Pantry has held a summer school supply drive for families in town who use the pantry. It's going to be the biggest year ever, with about 1,600 signed up to access the food pantry right now.

“[The need has] tripled over the last year and a half with the way the economy is. It's a tough year; people are struggling,” said Joyce Becker, director of the Town of Bethlehem's Senior Services department, which runs the pantry.

Families with children also can qualify for a summer nutrition program the pantry coordinates with Cornell Cooperative Extension. It provides the families of kids who qualify for free or reduced school lunches with fresh food in the summer, and there are even cooking classes to help families make the best use of the ingredients.

The food pantry knows that for many of the families who are just getting by to begin with, back to school supplies can come out of necessities like the food budget.

“Back to school means not only school supplies but the clothes and everything else that goes with it. It's a big dent in the budget, and it usually has to come from the household budget,” Becker said.

The food pantry is collecting donations until Aug. 8. Donations will go to students living in Bethlehem, who attend Bethlehem Central, Ravena-Coeymans-Selkirk or Guilderland Central school districts.

Needed items include: locker stockers, composition notebooks, calculators (TI-30), index cards, two-pocket folders, post-it notes, washable markers, 1.5-inch binders, subject dividers, pencil sharpeners, notebooks (single and three-subject), backpacks, Master locks, pencil pouches/boxes, plastic compasses and protractors, scissors (dull and sharp), highlighters, pink erasers, boxes of facial tissues, wide-rule paper, glue sticks, black/blue pens and Sharpie markers.

Donations may be dropped off at the Bethlehem YMCA or at the Senior Services Department at Town Hall, 445 Delaware Ave. in Delmar between the hours of 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.

For more information, contact the Senior Services outreach department at 439-4955, ext. 1173. The drive is also sponsored by the Bethlehem Senior Projects, Inc.

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