Backpack Food for Kids program still serving children

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With the 2015-16 school year in full swing, so is the Backpack Food for Kids program.

Initiated four years ago by the Spalding Collaborative, UGA-Griffin and the Griffin-Spalding County School System, the program has set out to tackle food insecurity by providing students with food for the weekend.

According to Joseph Walker, who plays an integral role in the program, school teachers and administrators typically pass on to him the names of students they suspect don’t eat between the end of school Friday and the beginning of school Monday, so those students can receive food backpacks.

The program currently serves 245 children in five local elementary schools — Anne Street, Atkinson, Moore, Jackson Road and Beaverbrook.

“We do this every week that school is in session. The schools that we serve are in the poorest areas of the county,” said Walker, pointing out that each backpack contains two meals and a snack for Saturday and Sunday, respectively. “This is food that elementary school children can handle by themselves.”

In some cases, he said, the program will send an additional backpack of food if the student has a sibling.

Walker said it costs about $200 per school year to feed one student. That money, he added, comes from donations in the community as well as small grants.

“Churches are very generous, because it touches their hearts to see children in need of food,” he said.

As the program partners with numerous local businesses and organizations — among them the Griffin-Spalding Chamber of Commerce, First Assembly of God, First Baptist Church, First Presbyterian Church, Caterpillar and the sorority Delta Sigma Theta — the impact of sending home food with children who otherwise wouldn’t have any is often remarkable, as attendance and behavior for those students typically improves.

Those who would like to donate to the Backpack Food for Kids program can make checks out to Spalding Collaborative, P.O. Box 701.