Spalding Collaborative brings community partners together to develop, implement, and evaluate plans that address the serious challenges facing Spalding County’s children and families. Food insecurity is one of those challenges
Spalding County children leaving school on Friday without sufficient food for the weekend is one of those serious challenges. Food insecurity is a lack of consistent access to enough food for an active, healthy life. A child’s chance for a bright tomorrow starts with getting enough healthy food to eat each day. Getting the food for the energy they need to learn and grow can be a day-in, day-out challenge. We have a responsibility to our children to give them every opportunity to succeed — which in turn will strengthen our communities and our country.
Under the umbrella of the Collaborative, community partners — came together with a vision to end childhood hunger. Backpack Food for Kids is our community’s response to hunger and food insecurity issues facing many children in our community.
Everyone needs to eat, and all children need to eat a certain amount to stay healthy, active, happy and ready to learn on Monday morning!
Joseph Walker, former executive director of Spalding Collaborative and DFCS, has a tender spot for the children! It was his vision to have a program in Griffin- Spalding that provided nutritious meals over the weekend for children when the schools dismissed on Friday.
With a great deal of planning with our partners– Griffin Spalding County School system, University of Georgia, Griffin First Assembly, Five Loaves Two Fish Food Panty, local Industries and with volunteers — the Backpack Food for Kids Program became a reality with the opening school term 2012! Since then thousands of meals have sustained some of our most vulnerable children in Spalding County over the weekend. Joseph described the Backpack initiative as “one that is really near to my heart”.
The Fall of 2017, Joseph retired as coordinator for BPFFK, but his passion for this project transferred to our new coordinator, Kathy Rhodes and her husband, Ronnie…
Please allow me to introduce myself! I am Kathy Rhodes, current coordinator for Backpack Food for Kids. My husband, Ronnie and I have volunteered for several years now since our retirement. I am a retired educator having spent the first 23 years in Clayton County Public School system and the last seven years in the Griffin-Spalding County School System.
In the late 1990’s while working in Clayton County, I learned of a former teacher in my department who along with other teachers, would spend Thursday afternoons making and packing peanut butter sandwiches to send home in student’s backpacks on Fridays. This is when I really realized that hunger was a problem facing our school system. So, while in the Griffin school system around 2011, I saw a presentation about the Backpack Food for Kid’s Program during a faculty meeting. From then on, I hoped one day volunteer with this program. As a high school teacher, I taught students who were homeless, living in shelters or in the family car, and this broke my heart! Pastor Russell Smith of Griffin First Assembly, talked with us about the program, and asked if we would volunteer.
My husband, Ronnie, is retired from the Georgia State Patrol having spent the last six years at the State Capitol as the Director of Capitol Police Division. He spent the first thirteen years of his career working patrol in the south part of Atlanta. He left that area to accept a supervisor position in various areas of the state. Ronnie has a real heart for BBFFK because of the effects he has seen on children living in difficult situations.
This program is in its seventh year! Backpack Food for Kids addresses the hunger and food insecurity issues facing children in OUR community. Food insecurity issues create various emotional, behavioral, and educational challenges for students. It is not unusual for some students, to leave school on Friday afternoon and return Monday morning having little or no food over the weekend. This creates a significant challenge for educators, as well as posing a barrier to learning for the student.
Students identified by teachers, school counselors, and administrators are enrolled in the program only with parental consent. Backpack Food for Kids provides students at the highest risk of hunger with non-perishable, nutritious food items for weekend consumption. Because of your support, we are able to assist students in Spalding County to return to school ready to learn on Monday morning! Teachers agree this program makes a difference!
Backpack Food for Kids is supported by donations from individuals, churches, civic organizations, and small grants to purchase food items. The program is sustained by continued support from the community. During the 2016-2017 school year, 14 volunteers packed 6,582 weekend meals for 268 children at 6 elementary schools! This speaks volumes about our community!
Each backpack costs approximately $6.67 per bag per week to fill with nutritious, non-perishable food for the weekend. A donation of $235 supports one child for one school year. The annual Backpack Food for Kids operating budget is $69,653. To continue the program we need to meet our fiscal budget of $62,590.
There are other programs that use the word “Backpack” and people think they contribute to the Collaborative’s program, but they don’t. These are programs for school supplies at the beginning of the school year where people donate school supplies causing the confusion. But our program is so different and operates all year!
We would greatly appreciate your support of Spalding’s most vulnerable children. Donations of any amount may be mailed to Spalding Collaborative, P.O. Box 701, Griffin, GA 30224 or if you prefer through PayPal at www.spaldingcollaborative.com. Spalding Collaborative is an IRS designated 501(c)3 non-profit organization and contributions are tax deductible.
I welcome the chance to further discuss with you our mission and volunteer opportunities with Backpack Food for Kids. Please contact me at [email protected] for more information. If you are aware of a group, Sunday School Class, big or small business,civic organization looking for a service project or mission activity, I would love to tell them about Backpack Food for Kids Program!.
Volunteers make the Backpack Food for Kid’s Program possible. Our volunteers meet on Wednesday at Jackson Road Elementary School to set up the food in an assembly line. On Thursdays we pack and deliver the bags to six elementary schools. We now have a space of our own! Our school system allows us to use a module unit to store and assemble the food bags.
We appreciate all of our volunteers from local businesses, organizations and churches who volunteer their time to set up, pack and deliver to local elementary schools. Many of our volunteers have worked with the program since its beginning.
– Kathy Rhodes,
A Bonus to the Backpack Food for Kids is the Shoes for Griffin Campaign, hosted by Field and Foot and Ankle Clinic.
Dr. Jerry Roberts started “Shoes for Griffin” in 2014 as a way for the Field Foot and Ankle Clinic to give back to the community. Carolyn Morales coordinates the project. With the help of staff,patients, friends, local organizations, and generous members of the community, children participating in the BPFFK get an extra treat prior to the Christmas break– a new pair of shoes!