Children 18 and younger will be eligible to pick up the pre-packed shelf-stable snack beginning Oct. 1 at the main library, 208 Lincoln Way E.

MASSILLON Across the state about 529,000 children live in households that lack access to affordable, nutritious food.


That means one in five kids are not sure where their next meal will come from.


To help fill bellies, the Massillon Public Library is doing its part to feed its youngest patrons.


The library will distribute an after-school snack to children 18 and younger beginning Oct. 1.


Upon the suggestion of Mayor Kathy Catazaro-Perry, library officials teamed up with the Children’s Hunger Alliance, a nonprofit agency that ensures children receive healthy food, nutrition education and physical activity.


The partnership makes sense, said Laura Klein, the library’s children's services and special projects manager.


"This program truly fits the public library model," she said. "It’s all about serving everybody."


Klein knows kids visiting the library even if they are getting food at home are always ready for a snack.


"All kids are growing and in need of nourishment," she said.


Anytime the library hosts a program that includes a treat, participants often ask for more.


"There are a lot of kids that are hungry," she said. "I don’t know if they don’t have food at home or got extra hungry."


Students in Massillon City Schools receive free breakfast and lunch based on the district’s poverty level.


In the midst of the pandemic shutting down businesses and disrupting everyday life, it’s becoming harder to keep food on the table. Klein said under the circumstances it is even more important to make sure kids have enough to eat.


The program, which is free to the library, is not based on income or other requirements, she said. Anyone 18 or younger can get a snack, all they have to do is stop in during the designated time and provide their name.


Library officials have mulled the idea of a feeding program, but do not have the resources to provide a cold or hot meal. The pre-packaged snack is a perfect fit.


"We knew of other libraries that do hot and cold meals, but we just don’t have the capabilities," Klein said. "This is a good compromise."


Financial reports indicate the Children’s Nutrition Alliance receives the majority of its funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s child nutrition programs to fund the feeding program. The remaining funding comes from grants and donations.


Children partaking in the library’s snack distribution will receive shelf-stable foods such as juice boxes and milk, Honey Grahams, dried cranberries, meat snacks, salsa, cheese and sunflower seeds.


Klein said snacks will vary from week to week and are in a pre-packed lunch bag.


The library has received 500 snack bags for the first month of the program. Klein anticipates serving about 25 kids, but the number can be adjusted based on participation.


The program is set to run through May 27. Parents can pick up bags for their children, Klein added.


"This is just another way for us to fill the gap," Klein said.


Snacks will be distributed at the main branch, 208 Lincoln Way E, from 2:30 to 6:45 p.m. Monday and Tuesday; 2:30 to 4:45 p.m. Wednesday, Thursday and Friday; and 11:30 a.m. to 1:45 p.m. Saturdays beginning Oct. 1.


Reach Amy at 330-775-1135 or amy.knapp@indeonline.com.


On Twitter: @aknappINDE