Backpack Project serving more than 189 children
The Morgan County Backpack Project “Bag Child Hunger,” started in January of this year and led by Chairperson Susan Caperton, is now serving an unprecedented 189 children in the county’s school system.
In January the committee packed and distributed 69 bags of food for children who do not have food over the weekends. These children eat only what is provided by the schools when in session. In the first week of May not only were 189 bags packed, some of the bags are for students who need food for the entire week. It was discovered that a few of the weekend bags were being eked out over a week period, while the bags only supply food for two days.
Also among these bags are few for students with allergies or dietary restrictions.
While families cannot sign up for the project, the students are identified by the school administrators, teachers, counselors or even kitchen staff. Student names are kept confidential by the school so that no one on the committee of eight knows who is receiving the backpack bags. There have only been a couple of cases when a student has said they do not need it. Also, there have been a few cases when a family’s situation has changed and the bags have been brought back to the school and administration was asked to give it to someone else who might need it.
Community response to the project has been excellent and generous. Churches, civic groups, businesses and individuals have all given either food or cash donations on a regular basis and are happy to be involved.
The inventory has been kept very well stocked, mostly through food donations, much to the relief of committee members Lexa VanDoren Kirk and Misty Mowery Stallard (both also serving as Americorps Promise VISTAS at Starting Points).
Says Audrey Morris, Starting Points Director, “the timing was finally right.” Starting Points is the fiscal umbrella for the Backpack Project, so that 100% of the monetary donations go toward food.
Recently, Dr. Bill Lands and FAST donated to the project in order to have all of the children receive tuna in their packs to introduce the very healthy Omega 3 fat into their diets, which Dr. Lands discovered. The grant covers tuna until the end of the year and through Energy Express.
Both the Backpack Project Committee and Community have been concerned about the long summer and the amount of time the kids who receive help will be away from school meals. From June 18 to July 27 during Energy Express, children under 18 years of age can eat either or both breakfast or lunch, though unless enrolled in the program, cannot stay for Energy Express Programming. Energy Express and the Backpack Project will be working together to get any children currently receiving packs who are also enrolled in Energy Express a pack during those six weeks. This is true of both the Berkeley Springs’ site as well as Paw Paw.
Also, the Meal Time Community Kitchen at Starting Points is open all year on Monday, Tuesday and Friday from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. to anyone who needs a meal.
The committee is preparing for next year, with bags ongoing back out to students the first week of school which resumes in the third week of August. Donations will be accepted throughout the summer at Starting Points or various spots around the county.
For more information about the Morgan County Backpack Project “Bag Child Hunger” visit the website. The site lists desired donations and drop off spots as well as other information. Monetary donations are accepted at Starting Points with the designation “backpacks,” or for Meal Time Community Kitchen.