ELMIRA - September is Hunger Action Month, an initiative by food banks across the country to promote awareness of food insecurity and hunger relief efforts.

The Food Bank offers many opportunities for community members and local businesses to show their support for hunger relief during September, and one held last week at the Food Bank of the Southern Tier was a big success.

Fifteen local businesses came together Thursday at the Food Bank of the Southern Tier to pack food for children in the BackPack Program.

“This was an incredibly successful event,” said Natasha Thompson, president and CEO of the Food Bank of the Southern Tier, moments after the BackPack Program. “We got a lot of enthusiastic teams representing businesses from all across the region that are engaging in some friendly competition that is really, at the end of the day, to help us serve hungry people.”

Maria Strinni, a Food Bank of the Southern Tier spokesman, said each of the 15 companies that took part in the event has donated the equivalent of 7,500 meals in order to participate in the Leader of the Pack Corporate Challenge presented by Mengel Metzger Barr & Co.

The teams had one hour to pack bags of food to be taken home by children at risk of hunger on weekends and school breaks. Whomever packs the most bags the fastest will be crowned the Leader of the Pack.

“We wanted to do something special to celebrate Mengel Metzger Barr & Co. 40th anniversary,” said Judith G. McIntosh, partner at Mengel Metzger Barr & Co. “We’ve always been the type of organization that gives back to the community. With the relationship we have with the Food Bank, we thought what better way to be able to celebrate, to do something to continue to give back to the community.”

Teams Participants were: Cameron Manufacturing & Design, Chemung Canal Trust Company, Dandy Mini Marts, Elmira Savings Bank, Excellus BCBS, First Heritage Federal Credit Union, Mengel Metzger Barr, Seneca Beverage, Res-Q-Jack, Simmons Rockwell Nissan Subaru Hyundai, Tompkins Trust Company, Watkins Glen International, Wegmans, Welliver, Williams Toyota+Honda.

In total, participation raised enough to help provide more than 112,500 meals for Southern Tier residents in need, Strinni said. The teams packed nearly 13,000 BackPacks during the event.

Strinni said 1 in 5 children in the Southern Tier is food insecure. More than 39,000 children in the Southern Tier qualify for free or reduced-price meals at schools. Many children who receive free and reduced-price school meals are left without the nutrition they need on weekends and holiday breaks when school is not in session.

Hunger is a reality for more than 72,600 people in the Southern Tier, 1 in 8 adults may not know how they will provide their next meal, Strinni said. Last year, the Food Bank distributed 9.5 million meals through direct service programs and our partner network

The Food Bank of the Southern Tier distributes food to people struggling with hunger through a network of 165 food pantries, meal programs, shelters and other hunger relief agencies in Broome, Chemung, Schuyler, Steuben, Tioga and Tompkins Counties.

The Food Bank also directly serves people in need through the BackPack Program, Kids’ Farmers Markets and Mobile Food Pantry Program. Through advocacy, education and community partnerships, the Food Bank’s vision is to create a future without hunger for everyone in the Southern Tier.

Learn more about Food Bank Hunger Action activities. Supporters can learn how to participate at www.foodbankst.org.