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Connecticut nonprofit 'fills in the blanks' of childhood food insecurity

U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) speaks to volunteers at Filling in the Blanks as they pack meals.
Molly Ingram
U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) speaks to volunteers at Filling in the Blanks as they pack meals.

More than 80,000 Connecticut kids are food insecure, and rely on school-provided breakfast and lunch.

Connecticut nonprofits like Filling in the Blanks in Norwalk are working to pick up the slack on the weekends.

The company was founded by Shawnee Knight and Tina Kramer, who say they have both benefited from food assistance programs in the past.

Filling in the Blanks relies on community volunteers to provide meals for more than 5,500 kids in Fairfield County every week.

Meals are bagged by volunteers.
Molly Ingram
Meals are bagged by volunteers.

“Annually, we have approximately 6,000 volunteers that come through our door to help us pack these bags, because we can't pack 5,500 a week on our own, we need the help of volunteers,” Knight said.

Volunteers come in three days a week to pack bags. Companies can also sign up for shifts as a team-building exercise.

“It’s a fun environment,” Kramer said. “We have the music playing, you stand with someone you either work with or go to school with. And it's just an enjoyable opportunity to give back to the community.”

U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) visited the company’s warehouse on Tuesday. He said the work they do is vital to the state.

“The federal government ought to be supporting it in grants and other kinds of financial support, and raise awareness generally, about the need for these kinds of volunteer organizations,” Blumenthal said. “This organization is composed largely of volunteers, they have a budget of a couple of million bucks, but their impact is astonishing.”

Filling in the Blanks has five in-school pantries. Additionally, they are about to launch their mobile pantry to provide fresh food to families in need.

That project has support from television producer and writer Shonda Rhimes, who is known for creating hit shows like "Grey’s Anatomy" and "How to Get Away With Murder."

The mobile pantry will operate once a month in Norwalk and Stamford.

It launches Saturday, Oct. 14, at South Norwalk Neighborhood School.

To learn more about Filling in the Blanks, visit their website.

Molly is a reporter covering Connecticut. She also produces Long Story Short, a podcast exploring public policy issues across Connecticut.