Staff Photo by Stacey Hairston:
Family Preservation Services is collecting food for the Back Pack Program, which sends needy children home with meals for the weekend.
Wednesday, September 3, 2014
By STACEY HAIRSTON - Staff Writer
In conjunction with the National Day of Service on Sept. 12, Family Preservation Services (FPS) of Franklin County is joining forces with area volunteers, schools and service organizations to kick off Franklin County's Back Pack Program.
For more than a decade, the Back Pack Program has provided nutritious and easy-to-prepare foods to elementary students who may not eat over the weekend when school meals are not available.
"Some of these children are coming to school on Monday with their stomachs growling because there was just nothing to eat all weekend," said Melisa Allen, an FPS counselor who has organized the project with help from FPS In-Home Coordinator Stacy Louthan.
"We see and work with these children every day, and it breaks our hearts."
As their Day of Service project, FPS has stepped up to help get the program rolling this year.
Participating elementary schools include Boones Mill, Callaway, Dudley, Ferrum, Henry, Rocky Mount, Snow Creek and Sontag.
"What is so unique about this program is that each community supports their own elementary school," said Allen. "Some schools are supported by churches, some by businesses and some by volunteers. The name of each individual school's program may differ, but the concept remains the same."
Collection boxes will be set up until Sept. 10 at Eagle Cinema, Friendly Furniture, Westlake Kroger, Tri-Area Health Clinic in Ferrum, FPS, The Willard Companies and at Boones Mill, Dudley, Henry, Snow Creek and Sontag elementary schools.
FPS asks that donated food items be non-perishable and kid-friendly, meaning easy to prepare and, preferably, with pull tabs for opening.
"A lot of the children will be preparing the food themselves, so easy-to-open items are preferred," said Allen.
The Kroger Co. has donated the bags needed for packing and distributing the food.
"Westlake Kroger employees have even started their own separate food drive just to help support this project," said Allen.
Items needed include breakfast, lunch, snacks, fruits and vegetables.
Examples of kid-friendly food items might include juice boxes, canned spaghetti with pull tabs, pop tarts, breakfast bars, pudding cups, individual cereal packs, oatmeal and fruit cups.
On Sept. 12, FPS will distribute all donated food to participating elementary schools.
"Currently, this program serves over 200 Franklin County students," said Allen.
Each bag contains around 12 food items, so to keep the program running and the children fed, about 2,400 food items will be needed every week, she added.
"The numbers grow each year, and with the cost of food going up and the resources going down, it's getting harder and harder to help these children," said Martha Puckett, volunteer with Ferrum Elementary's Panther Packs Program.
Each Friday, as long as food is available, students in need will be sent home with a bag of food to help curb their hunger over the weekend.
"We have seen these kids before they get on the bus to go home on Friday, and we can see it written all over their faces," said Charlotte Runyon, FPS Regional Director. "There is nothing worse than seeing a child who is fearful of not having food. With this project, we are not only reaching out to the kids we already serve, but we are able to branch out to all county children who may be in need of this service."
Some of the area businesses sponsoring the Back Pack Program include Food Lion, Kroger, Harvester Performance Center, Sunken City Brewery, The Smith Mountain Wake Company and Valley Mechanical Services.
Monetary donations are also accepted and appreciated.
For more information or to make a monetary donation, contact Allen at FPS at (540) 483-0312.
To donate food items after Sept. 10, contact the participating school for directions.