COBLESKILL — Dozens of volunteers packed hundreds of bags of food to be distributed to families throughout Schoharie County on Wednesday amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The Schoharie County chapter of the Joshua Project, a national nonprofit Christian-based volunteer organization, partnered with the county’s six public school districts to deliver fresh, frozen and nonperishable food items to local families.

The food is provided in addition to the prepacked breakfasts and lunches the districts have delivered to their students since schools closed in March, according to Patrick Costello, president of the Schoharie County chapter of the Joshua Project.

“This is an above-and-beyond act,” he said.

For the past eight years, the organization has partnered with the United Way of the Greater Capital Region to facilitate a summer backpack program, providing food to families in need throughout the county, Costello said.

The backpack program is limited in its offerings due to a lack of refrigerated storage space, Costello said, but the organization’s partnership with local schools has allowed the pandemic delivery program to supply families with fresh produce, eggs and milk in addition to nonperishable goods.

Volunteers meet each Wednesday at the Cobleskill Fairgrounds to sort and package the food, and staff from Cobleskill-Richmondville, Gilboa-Conesville, Jefferson, Middleburgh, Schoharie and Sharon Springs central school districts collect the packages and facilitate delivery.

“We’re very fortunate to have a wonderful group of volunteers,” Costello said; many of whom represent several local churches, including Fusion Church in Cobleskill, Our Lady of the Valley in Middleburgh, the United Methodist Church in Richmondville and Sharon Springs, the Schoharie United Presbyterian Church, and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Central Bridge.

“Schools closed on a Friday, and we were out here the next Wednesday,” Costello said, adding that the organization intends to continue the feeding program at least through August.

“The need is increasing,” Costello said. Volunteers packed food for 250 families at the onset of the coronavirus outbreak, but the number has since risen to 320 and is “still growing.”

In 2017, the most recent year for which data is available, national nonprofit organization Feeding America estimated that 19% of Schoharie County children are food-insecure, surpassing the statewide rate of 17.6% and nearly doubling the county’s overall food insecurity rate of 10.7%.

“The families are extremely appreciative,” Costello said.

Sarah Eames, staff writer, can be reached at seames@thedailystar.com or 607-441-7213. Follow her @DS_SarahE on Twitter.

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