Feeding The Needy

Published 5:18 pm Thursday, September 12, 2013

PRINCE EDWARD — County elementary children who might otherwise go hungry over the weekend, might soon start getting packages of food to take home.

Bruce Davis, supervisor of the school division’s food service program, outlined plans for a backpack program where specific children with an identified need would receive a package of food to take home over the weekend.

Davis explained at the September school board meeting that he has been approached by FACES (Farmville Area Community Emergency Services) and two local churches about weekend meals for students that may not get those meals at home—where the first meal on Monday morning is probably the first they’ve had since Friday when they left school.

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“This, right now, is just in the initial stages of just getting information,” Davis detailed. “I’m working with the elementary school and the guidance counselors and figuring out how we can determine what children would need those meals, how it would be funded—there would not be a cost to the school board or the school system or the food service department. It would be through local United Way’s funds, churches and people who…just give donations.”

The food would be non-perishable items; a local church or FACES would pack the bags, someone would bring the bags to the school and they would be secured, and the elementary school would give the bags to the student before they entered the bus and taken home.

Davis outlined that they would like to start before Thanksgiving in November, but added, “We’re just getting the ball rolling right now so we’ll see how it goes.”

The objective of the program, outlined in a memo to the board, is to provide children at risk of hunger with nutritious, easy to prepare food for preparation and consumption at home, distribute the food at safe sites that offer easy access to the children, and involve additional resources and partners to assure sustainability.

The backpacks would include, according to the memo, such things as granola bars, peanut butter, tuna, crackers, mac & cheese, cereal and juice boxes.

The specific identities of the children participating in the program would be kept confidential; the backpacks would not have any symbols to signify participants.

“…We’ve got a large need because we’re 80 percent free and reduced (meals) at the elementary school,” Davis told The Herald. “As a school district, we’re about 65 percent, but there’s a lot of students that parents—they live with their grandparents or parents who are working so they’re home …so they don’t get (to eat)…or they’re eating the frozen pizza and the chips for dinner instead of nutritious meals. So there’s a need for it.”

He thinks all counties have a need for it.

Still, not everyone has Prince Edward’s numbers.

Those in charge of it, Davis offered, are not going to open it to everyone. Individual children will essentially be invited to participate.

“And that’s where, hopefully, the help with the principal and the guidance counselors who are with these students and these parents and grandparents know which ones really need it…identify that student that’s down at the nurse every Monday ’cause his belly hurts. Well, he’s not sick, he’s hungry…That just means he’s not getting a meal Saturday and Sunday,” Davis said.

A weekend backpack might just help address some of that need.

And when children eat, it just might make learning a bit easier, too.