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RSS fifth graders lend a hand to Meals on Main Street 

MOMS program helps those in need


The blue Meals on Main Street mobile food pantry van was parked outside of the Bruno M. Ponterio Ridge Street School. Inside were boxes filled with produce that would need to be sorted before it could be delivered to those in need. Fortunately, there were several hands available to help — the entire fifth grade class.

Each class came outside to assist, sorting through all the produce—apples, pears, broccoli, bananas and more—and putting like items in large blue bins.


“We really appreciate your willingness to lend a hand,” Denise Cypher, program development manager at MOMS said. “It’s so nice to work in a field where you know you are helping people.”


In the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving, the fifth-grade class had been bringing in non-perishable food items to be donated to MOMS, an endeavor organized by parent Katherine Hallissy Ayala. Her older son now at Blind Brook High School and Peter, her fifth grader, have been volunteering at the Port Chester-based food pantry with her for several years. She invited the organization to the school so students could learn more about how their donations will help those in the community and what exactly the organization does.


“I love seeing them feel like they can make a difference,” Ms. Hallissy Ayalla said of her family. “We live in a very fortunate community and there is so much we can do.”


Ms. Cypher first met with the fifth graders inside the school and thanked them for their donations. She explained that the main goal of MOMS is to assist those with food insecurity in a dignified manner. She also shared how a large number of people the pantry serves either recently lost their job or may have a job but not enough income to cover all their expenses, including groceries.


She used the example of the students receiving an allowance of $5 a week. They may spend it on a wanted item that costs $3, and then they have some money left over to spend on something else. However, if the cost of their wanted item increases, suddenly their $5 may not be enough.


“If you are a parent and have to pay for your house, car and electricity, when you have those expenses, all those things are more than the $5 you have, so what happens,” she asked. “Most reduce what they buy, including groceries. They become food insecure.”


“Food just should be a natural thing everyone should get,” she said.


The mobile food truck travels to different neighborhoods in Port Chester on a regular basis. People in need are welcome to come and shop there at no expense. The food is often donated from grocery stores who share items they feel won’t sell in their store. The produce may be perfectly fine for use, but if there is blemish a buyer will not purchase it and it would otherwise go to waste.


In addition, MOMS receives food from Feeding Westchester, a food bank that serves the entire county.


“It’s so nice to give to others and show that we care about them,” Ms. Cypher said. “They deserve our respect and love.”


MOMS also operates a meals program, where hot homemade meals are given out to those in need.


Peter Ayala has experience packing up those meals and has earned the nickname “The Accountant” as he is responsible for counting how many hot meals are prepared on days when he volunteers.


“Making the meals makes me happy,” he said.


Fifth grader Carly Dutra helped to sort pears on this chilly morning.


“It makes me feel really good,” she said. “It makes me feel like I am helping my community.”


Ms. Cypher said the bags of donated items the class had collected would be given out to those seeking assistance with MOMS in time for the Thanksgiving holiday. Those who receive a bag of food will also get turkey.


“We are trying to make it easier for them so they can feed their families,” Ms. Cypher said.