While Montgomery County, Maryland, is one of the wealthiest counties in the country, thousands of children there don’t know from where their next meal may come, so a Maryland man created an organization with the mission of making sure every child has something to eat when they go home.
“The best kept secret ever is that there’s people in the county that really are in trouble — both food, financial — and kids are suffering every day from it,” Jeremy Lichtenstein said.
He started the volunteer organization Kids in Need Distributors (KIND) six years ago after finding out kids in his own community didn’t have enough access to food outside of school.
“Once I delivered food, I realized the need in all the schools, even in Bethesda and Chevy Chase, there’s all need everywhere,” he said.
In six years, KIND’s gone from feeding 37 kids to almost 2,000 kids at 25 different schools.
“A lot of the feedback we get from the counselors is of kids literally grabbing onto their legs on Friday, hoping they’re going to get a package sent home with them to carry them through the weekend,” Lichtenstein said.
Every six weeks, Lichtenstein and an army of volunteers pick up food from Costco in Wheaton. The food gets dropped off at schools where more volunteers pack bags.
School staff identifies which kids are in need, and a teacher discreetly places it in the child’s backpack.
The thank yous pour in.
“They just come up to me and they’ll just give me a huge hug, and even some of the teachers, they’re, ‘Thank you so much for this,’” said Ashlea Heckman of KIND.
“It’s an inspiration to see other people get inspired by what other people do,” said Jerry Truman of Truman Charities.
Lichtenstein calls it a labor of love.
“My heart is bigger than my pocket,” he said.
KIND also takes care of the kids during summer break. Their last delivery of the school year includes meals for summer school programs.
Reported by Leon Harris and edited by Perkins Broussard.