‘Blessings in a Backpack’ Recognized for Helping Feed Students in Need

Posted Thursday, September 17, 2020.

HUNTINGTON – A local group of volunteers’ efforts to feed hungry students were recognized in a city proclamation Thursday afternoon.

The national not-for-profit organization’s Huntington chapter has grown to provide free meals each weekend during the school year to approximately 450 children in five schools. That number is up from about 250 children five years ago and includes some children who currently are participating in remote learning.

“We want people to know that even during COVID-19 we are still feeding the children,” Dana Meyer, a program committee member, said. “We are always looking for new groups that are interested in helping.”

Volunteers pack six meals plus snacks for children in the program to eat over the weekend, when they might otherwise lack access to sufficient food. By providing nourishment, the group strives for children to arrive to school rested and alert, which is tied to better school attendance, academic performance and overall mental and physical health.

To be eligible a child must be on the free or reduced lunch program and a caregiver must sign a permission form.

“The teachers will select those that are most in need to receive a permission slip,” Meyer said. “They know the kids best and know their situation.”

Each week, typically on a Wednesday, volunteers drive the packed food to the participating schools. It is then distributed to teachers, who in turn discreetly place it in a child’s backpack when the classroom is empty. The schools also handle delivery of the meals to students attending remotely.

The cost per child is approximately $109 annually or about $3.21 a week, according to the Huntington “Blessings in a Backpack” volunteer group. Monetary donations of any amount can be made online at blessingsinabackpack.org or by mailing a check to 1515 N. Jefferson St., Huntington, IN 46750.

“Huntington County, IN schools” must be specified in the online form or in the check’s memo line.

“The donation stays in Huntington County and is used to feed children in our community,” Meyer said.

Grant money and food drives are also used to supply food for the program.

In addition, volunteers are needed to help pack food. Local youth groups, sports teams and local businesses are encouraged to assist. In adjustments made due to the COVID-19 public health situation, groups will be kept small and provided space for social distancing.

Anyone interested in volunteering with “Blessings in a Backpack” in Huntington County can contact the group at biabhuntingtonco@gmail.com or (260) 433-9854. More information about the local group can be found at facebook.com/blessingsinabackpackhuntington.

The week of September 14 to 18 is designated as “National Blessings in a Backpack Week.”

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