The Edwards County Backpack program has seen a boost in donations, thanks to the Edwards County 4–H program, the Edwards County High School FFA and the Edwards County Farm Bureau.
All three organizations have donated food, money and/or assistance in preparing backpacks for children in need.
The backpack program provides two breakfast meals, two lunch meals, two dinner meals and two snacks to children on the reduced or free lunch programs at school. The backpacks are distributed by teachers on Fridays, giving those children three meals and a snack for both Saturday and Sunday each week.
The program, run through local churches, is entering its seventh year.
“The first year we had less than 20,” said volunteer Kay Jones. “This year we have 43.
“We went into this year thinking we’d be fully funded, but we doubled our kids.”
In order to meet the increased need, multiple organizations, including the FFA, 4–H and Farm Bureau, have stepped up to answer the call.
“Lots of places have been volunteering,” Jones stated. “The Farm Bureau has been so good to us, providing these kids to bring food and help us unload.
“It’s a major undertaking.”
Emma Wiseman, with the Edwards County 4–H, was one of several people to help with that undertaking late last week.
“We donated a lot of non-perishable goods this week,” said Wiseman. “It’s really important to support the community, and we really want to reach out to everyone and do our best to influence (it) in a positive way.”
ECHS FFA representative Nate Shilling explained that the local chapter of his organization is donating to the program as part of a state-wide initiative designed to impact local communities.
“The FFA is involved at the state level with Harvest for All,” Shilling explained. “It’s like a program that helps work with food pantries and stuff to help the needs of the community.
“Our chapter has donated fruit and time and effort to help with the backpack program at school.”
Rebecca Perry, Manager for the ECFB, also referenced the Harvest for All program with regard to the bureau’s efforts within the program.
“The Farm Bureau at the state and national level is involved in…Harvest for All,” said Perry, “and that involves farmers, since they grow the food, sharing what they grow with others by working with food banks, by either donating time, talents or food. So we had gotten involved with the backpack program through monetary donations and through use of service.
“Because we see the need and we see how we can impact others in our local community.”
But one doesn’t need to be part of an organization to take part in the program.
“We have a good group of about five volunteers,” she said, “but we’re always happy to have more.
“We meet every Friday morning at 8 a.m. to prepare the 43 backpacks.”
Those wanting to volunteer are encouraged to show up and participate at the Albion First United Methodist Church.
“They can just show up on Friday morning and we’ll welcome them with open arms.”
And with several children still potentially in need, that help might be needed in the future.
“The superintendent in the school has told me that 150 children are eligible (for the program),“ said Jones. “So we’ve only touched a third of them.
“Now that’s a scary thought, isn’t it?”