SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – The fear of not being able to put food on the table is a reality for a growing number of families across the country.

America’s Second Harvest of Coastal Georgia reports 64% of children in the Coastal Empire live below the poverty level. Thousands of children struggling with food insecurity are getting help from the charity whose mission is to “make sure no kid goes to bed hungry.”

“I’ve been in education now for 28 years and I’ve seen kids fill their pockets with food from the cafeteria wanting to take food home because they didn’t know when the next meal was coming. A program like this — it just is one less worry for that child,” Kimberly Newman, the principal at Hesse K-8 School, said.

“The school pantry program really came about through conversations with people who recognized that hunger was going on in our community,” said Mary Jane Crouch, the executive director of America’s Second Harvest of Coastal Georgia, describing the school program’s inception.

Now in the second year, the School Pantry Program is in 31 schools in Savannah and all public schools in Glynn County.

“Our mission and our goal is to try to end childhood hunger,” Crouch added. “And maybe we can’t end it, but we want to make sure every child knows where they can go to get food and has access to food.”

Newman said the program is making a meaningful impact for students and their parents at her school. “Families have lost their jobs and they’re not able to provide for their families due to COVID situations,” she said. “It’s important for everyone to understand that it takes a village and we have to support each other.”

Educators say now that kids are back in school, they’re seeing just how many of them are worried about going hungry.

“They can’t learn if they don’t have that basic need of food,” Newman explained.

Second Harvest plans to continue expanding the program with the goal to have food pantries in every public school in Chatham County.

“These children are our future,” Crouch said as she talked about the value of investing in the youth in every community.

Schools using the pantry program get food to families through social workers and teachers who recognize the need and privately distribute the food at a school drop-off site.

Click HERE to make a donation to the food bank or to find out more about their programs.