Up to 400 children in the Penn Yan and Dundee elementary school districts will have the supplies they need to start school thanks to recent donations made by KanPak.

Kathy Guenther, representing Milly’s Pantry, met with KanPak officials last week to thank them for their donation of 400 backpacks and paper, pencils, crayons and other supplies, including ear buds for use with mobile devices and computers.

Back(pack) to School is a backpack donation program of Milly’s Pantry that provides children in need with a backpack filled with essential supplies, so they can begin the school year ready to learn, do homework and participate in class.

“Providing these academic necessities to at-risk children promotes and encourages attendance as well as boosts self-confidence,” says Melissa Nolan, KanPak plant controller and Golden State Foods Foundation (GSF) Committee Chair locally.

In 2016, the first time the company participated in the program, KanPak donated 100 backpacks with supplies. “This year we thought we could do more, so we made a big commitment and went all in,” said Bryan Bartee, general manager.

“This is great! I’m overwhelmed!” said Guenther, looking over the donations stored in the company’s Dundee warehouse.

Kanpak employees raised funds for the backpack donations in just one month through bake sales, can returns, GSF parking spot auction, and raffles of donated items and associate yearly pledges.

The third shift won a competition for the most funds raised, earning a 2 a.m. breakfast.

Guenther says Milly’s Pantry served 700 students in Penn Yan, Dundee, Marcus Whitman and Prattsburgh School Districts. Guenther says there are no qualification requirements, in keeping with Milly Bloomquist’s philosophy that anyone who has a need will have that need met.

This school year, 28 GSF Foundation committees across the U.S. will donate 13,750 backpacks filled with school supplies to children. Since inception of the program, the GSF Foundation has donated more than 100,000 backpacks to at-risk children. To date, the GSF Foundation has raised more than $38 million to help those in need in the areas where GSF associates live and work.

Guenther says backpacks will be available for pickup between 8 a.m. and noon and 4 to 7 p.m. Aug. 15 in the Penn Yan Elementary School cafeteria. They will be available at the Dundee Central School during the same hours on Aug. 17.

KanPak, producer of aseptic dairy products, employs 198 people in Yates County.