Hunger is one of the most under-appreciated factors that contribute to how well a student learns in the classroom. If their stomach is growling, children have a much harder time focusing on Columbus sailing the ocean blue in 1492.
As this problem comes to the forefront of popular attention, numerous programs are being spread through the country. One such program, Blessings in a Backpack, is coming to the West Union Elementary School with the help of the West Union Church of Christ.
Blessings in a Backpack was started by Stan Curtis in Louisville, Ky., back in 2004. Curtis grew up as an orphan, abandoned by his parents, and had promised to give back to the community as an adult, so other children did not have to live as he did. The program has since grown to cover 45 states and Canada, Columbia, and Haiti, feeding 65,000 children every year.
The program provides needy children with a bag of food for the weekend at their school the preceding Friday. The bag contains two breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snack items chosen from an approved list of items that include oatmeal, juice, mac and cheese, and canned vegetables.
The West Union Church of Christ became involved as the Angel Food program they were originally working with closed down. Pastor Ron Baker was interested in serving the community in a similar manner - focusing on the underfed - and came across Blessings in a Backpack.
“With the end of Angel Food, Pastor Baker was looking for another way of doing outreach, and, as a bus driver, he sees the need on a daily basis,” said Karen Young, Church Coordinator for the program.
While donations are sent to the Blessings in a Backpack program, the actual decision-making of what goes into a bag for the weekend and the labor of putting the bags together will be handled by the Church of Christ.
Half of the students at West Union Elementary are enrolled in the free and reduced lunch program. While they have raised a good deal of money through donations from local businesses and individuals, the Church of Christ only has enough money to cover 80 students for the year. Eighty to a $100 is enough to cover one student for the whole year, and the church is hoping to receive a few more donations before the start of the school year.
“I’m hoping this article will stir some excitement in the community in bringing in more donations. We have had a good outpouring so far from local businesses and individuals, and we hope that continues,” Young said. “There is no overhead cost for this. All the money stays local.”
The program will kick off on the first Friday of September, with the schools deciding which students have the greatest need for the program to serve, while also providing for a waiting list should a student move and leave the program. The Church of Christ has no plans to expand the program to any of the other schools in the county, as they suspect West Union Elementary will keep them very busy as is.
“Russ Grooms with Prather’s IGA and Chris Dunn with Walmart have been very helpful in arranging the menus with us. I just spent two hours today working with Russ to get our first menus planned,” Young added, noting the cooperation between West Union Elementary School, the West Union Church of Christ, and the two grocery stores.
The program will accept donations all year long. If an individual is interested in donating, they can send a check to BIB Lockbox, PO Box 950291, Louisville, Ky 40295-0291. Make sure to write “West Union Elementary” on the check, so the donation will be applied to the write location.