Kids Helping Kids During Pandemic and Beyond Through a Non-profit

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(Anthony O'Neill, Photographer)
Del Rey Elementary sisters (L-R) Leah and Adriel O’Neill, of the non-profit Pantry Kids, Inc., market their free snack boxes to those in need, by spreading the word and telling their friends at school.

    Everyone loves a snack, right? But if you are food-insecure, a snack takes on an entirely different meaning. This is where Pantry Kids, Inc., created last September by a family in Orinda, fits in.
    “Pantry Kids was started to help kids in need, with snacks,” said Joanna O’Neill, with husband Anthony and daughters Leah and Adriel comprising the rest of the family. “Noticing our daughters making multiple trips to the pantry during distance learning, we started sharing how most kids are not as fortunate and don’t have pantries. In fact, Leah and Adriel were surprised to learn that Anthony and I never grew up with a pantry.”
    Their business slogan is “From Our Pantry to Yours.”
    While Anthony O’Neill came up with the Pantry Kids idea, Joanna created the paperwork to incorporate as a non-profit. Leah, age 9 and Adriel, age 7, who both attend Del Rey Elementary, do the marketing by telling their friends about it.
    “Anthony and I plan the packing events with our community,” said Joanna. “We have done four packing events to date, three in our immediate community with the support of our Orinda friends and family. We organized one recently in Georgia, partnering with Goodwill of Middle Georgia and the CSRA’s (Central Savannah River Area) Foundation in Augusta, Georgia.”
    Together, the family has packed 700 boxes designed and donated to kids in need. 
    Each box contains 10 snacks and five drinks to help one kid snack for a five-day school week. Snacks range from Oreo cookies and granola bars to individual-sized drinks such as Capri Sun or Honest Kids.
    Helping children in need is important to the O’Neill family.
    “Because neither of us grew up with pantries, we wanted to showcase the need outside of the bubble we live in to our girls,” said Joanna, who works in risk management for a tech company, while Anthony works in advertising.
    When Pantry Kids partnered with Del Rey Elementary, Amanda Yacoe Perrone, a member of the Del Rey Site Council, became very excited.
    “As a community, we felt it was extra important to partner with an organization that was not only born from our own little community but from children within that community,” said Perrone, who has lived in Orinda with her family and three children for the last eight years. “Pantry Kids is an amazing example of how children can help fuel the changes we need to see in the world and to help support others.”
    Perrone said they are currently in the process of executing their own small drive through Troop #33779.
  “Our goal is to pack 50 boxes,” she said. “Leah O’Neill, a member of the troop as well, has been sharing her experience of starting Pantry Kids with her family.”
    In addition to donating to kids at school through Pantry Kids, the O’Neill family has donated snack boxes to other organizations.
    “We have helped the Women’s Daytime Drop-in Center in Berkeley and Monument Crisis Center in Concord,” said Joanna. “We chose the Monument Crisis for our drive with Del Rey, because they serve many kids. Our Del Rey students successfully packed, designed and gave 271 boxes for this drive.”
    Perrone is thankful the community has come together to help those in need.
    “I just want to say thank you to the amazing Del Rey community which has really stepped up to make this drive so successful,” said Perrone. “Also, a huge thank you goes to Tina Ross and her team at The Monument Crisis Center for helping collect and transport all of the boxes and for all of the hard work they do for the Contra Costa County Community.”
    Tax-deductible donations can be made to Pantry Kids, Inc. directly through its online store at https://bit.ly/2OHbdsO.

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