FLORENCE, S.C. – Food Lion employees made fast work of assembling about 9,000 pounds of food during a packing event for Help 4 Kids Florence on Wednesday morning. The event was held at the Help 4 Kids Florence facility on Hoffmeyer Road in Florence.

Help 4 Kids Florence is a nonprofit group dedicated to filling the weekend hunger gap for children in Florence County elementary schools who are receiving free or reduced-price breakfast and lunch during the week and who have been identified by their school as “food insecure” on the weekend.

About 25 Food Lion employees, mostly store managers, unloaded the food pallets and packed bags of food that will be distributed to these elementary school students for Easter break.

Help 4 Kids Florence packs bags each week during the academic year and distributes 2,400 bags to elementary school students before the weekend so these children will have something to eat on the weekend.

Food Lion is ensuring that these children will have food over the Easter break.

Food Lion Feeds donated more than 9,000 pounds of food, worth a total of $7,463, which is equal to 74,630 meals, said Benny L. Smith, manager, media and community relations for Food Lion.

“This is our third year," said Billy Bullock, director of operations for Food Lion. “Last year we packed 4,100 bags in less than two hours.”

The Food Lion associates came from Florence, Marion, Lumberton, North Carolina, and all points in between, he said.

Bullock said the volunteers unloaded the items and broke them down into single-serve units.

The bags included breakfast items, nutrition bars, vegetables and two meat items.

“It should last a full week,” he said.

He said Food Lion is in the process of remodeling and updating all of its stores and this is a good time to give the associates a break. They all volunteered their time.

Bullock said the employees get so much out of doing this.

Barbara Huggins isn’t a Food Lion employee but this is her second year of volunteering. Her daughter, Melissa Strickland, has worked with Food Lion for almost 25 years, she said.

“I brought my granddaughter this year,” Huggins said.

Huggins said she works every day with children who live in poverty and don’t get the food and nourishment they need. She is a financial support specialist with the Robeson County Housing Authority in Lumberton, North Carolina.

“A child that gets healthy food, it helps with their learning,” she said. “They do better in school. It is very important.”

She said her satisfaction in volunteering comes from knowing that “a child out there is not going hungry.”

She said some of the foods they pack the children can prepare themselves.

Sarah Hardee has helped pack food in Marion but this is her first time with Help 4 Kids in Florence.

“I have passion with this company,” she said. “I am happy that I work for a company that allows me to help out. That means everything to me. Helping others is what we do.”

She said children shouldn’t have to worry about food at any time.

In no time, the employees were filling bags with pop tarts, cereal bars, ramen noodles, fruit cups, Chef Boyardee Spaghetti and Meatballs, and other nutritious foods.

“We love a friendly competition,” Hardee said. “We are trying to beat last year’s record.”

Allie Walker with Help 4 Kids said they ended up filling about 2,835 bags.

Diane Welsh with Help 4 Kids Florence was on site to help direct the operation.

“It is an enormous help,” she said. “They are providing us with a week’s worth of food that we don’t have to pay for ourselves.”

She said the volunteers were packing a little more food than they normally do in each bag.

The food will be distributed to 2,438 students in 34 schools in Florence County, including Head Starts, in all five school districts.

For more information about Food Lion, visit foodlion.com.

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