Local company provides snacks for Boys and Girls Club programs

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Stomachs are likely to be rumbling as children arrive for after-school programs run by the Boys and Girls Club.

"A lot of the kids are actually having lunch in late morning at school. By the time they come to us at 3 in the afternoon, these little people are hungry," said Mike Hepler, president and chief executive officer of the Boys and Girls Club Of Western Pennsylvania.

To satisfy that hunger with healthy food, his organization is receiving a boost from Pittsburgh's largest independently owned fresh foods distributor.

In the spring, Paragon Foods started donating snacks on Mondays and Fridays for hundreds of youngsters at five club locations: Carnegie, McKeesport, Mc-Kees Rocks, Lawrenceville and Millvale.

The program was to start again in September, after the Boys and Girls Club completes its annual two-week closing for maintenance.

"The quality of the fruits and vegetables has been outstanding," Mr. Hepler said. "They're always consumed by the children. There's no waste."

He met Elaine Bellin, Paragon president, at a kickoff meeting for Fit United Pittsburgh, an initiative launched by United Way of Allegheny County to improve the health of children through nutrition and physical activity.

"During that ceremony, Elaine and I had a chance to chat," Mr. Hepler recalled.

"I explained the need to supply young people with nutritious snacks."

She agreed, and the partnership took shape.

"Helping children make better, more nutritious food choices is important to the overall long-term health of our community," said Ms. Bellin, whose grandfather founded Paragon in 1958. "Once children learn healthy foods can taste great, we hope they will continue that trend into adulthood, when they have to make their own meal choices."

Her company, located in Lawrenceville, plans to continue to supply the Boys and Girls Club through next spring.

"The best thing about this is that all the folks at Paragon, they're doing this for the right reasons," Mr. Hepler said. "I admire that."


Harry Funk, freelance writer: suburbanliving@post-gazette.com.


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