Journal-Times (Grayson, KY)

February 27, 2013

Fighting hunger one backpack at a time

By Crystal J. Damron
Journal-Times

Feb. 27, 2013 — No one likes the thought of a child going hungry, anywhere in the world, much less in their home town. Walmart Foundation Good Works Programs is standing up against the fight in Carter County's back yard.

The Northeast Kentucky Community Action Agency, Inc. and Walmart Foundation Good Works Programs are teaming up, along with the help of Kings Way Church, to fight local hunger.

The Walmart Foundation Good Works Programs presented the Northeast Kentucky Community Action Agency with a $50,000 check Tuesday, Feb. 19.

“We truly appreciate the donation from Walmart and what it does for our children,” says Northeast Executive Director David Carroll.

Last year The Walmart Foundation Good Works Program donated 14.6 million dollars to Kentucky residents, states Marketing Manager Market 259, Northeast Kentucky Rob Felber.

Feedingamerica.org indicates in 2011 there were 16.7 million children, under 18 years of age, were living in homes where food was unsecured. Heartbreaking statistics no matter the age of the child, but studies show the first three years of life are the most important in establishing a good foundation in multiple aspects; physical and mental health, academic achievement, and economic productivity.

Many schools and other organizations are combating this issue with similar projects. The Northeast program is offered to all three and four year old students in any of the four county preschool classes. The Northeast Kentucky territory includes Carter, Elliott, Lawrence and Greenup counties.

“The hunger our Head Start staff sees is when they notice a child hiding an extra piece of food into their jacket so they can take it home with them, or when the child asks for extra food because the didn't have anything for supper last night or breakfast that morning. This means that our children will at least have some food once they leave school for the weekend,” Carroll adds.

Northeast is currently working with the Huntington Area Food Bank to run this program. Buying in bulk is a major cost benefit to this team up.

At the beginning of the year Northeast received hundreds of backpacks, all different shapes, sizes and colors, from local companies such as Kings Daughters Medical Center, personal donations, and multiple church donations to kick start this program and keep it fun and light hearted for the children.

“We would like to express our thanks to some of the other organizations that made this food backpack program possible. The Grahn Freewill Baptist Church, Employees of Kings Daughters Hospital and Outreach centers and the Kings Way Church. Without these partners, our program would not see the success we have achieved,” says Carroll.

The children are in class Monday through Thursday. Once the children are sent home on Thursday afternoon they are sent home with a backpack of food to help get them through the weekend, until they are back at school.

Each week, each child is provided the following; two servings of cereal, two cartons of shelf stable milk, one serving of chicken with rice and vegetables, one serving of macaroni and cheese, one serving each of green beans and corn, two boxes of raisins and one serving of applesauce.

After the food is bought in bulk, in connection with the Huntington Area Food Bank, volunteers from Kings Way Church of Olive Hill make bi-weekly trips to the Food Banks warehouse to load up enough for the Elliott and Carter county children. The supplies are brought back to their church and bagged each week for these precious children.

Rachel Henderson of Kings Way Church was quick to say “what a blessing it was for us to be asked to help” and went on to explain how the members of Kings Way really enjoy helping others “it is where our heart is” and they are willing to help if at all possible, whenever asked.

Northeast is currently serving 423 total children with weekly backpacks, 141 in Carter, 61 in Elliott, 36 in Lawrence and 185 in Greenup. To date they have been able to provide over 80,000 food items to children in need, by the end of school this year the number will climb to 127,000 items supplied.

The program is getting great feedback from parents of the children. One mother writes, “The backpacks of food is a huge help, my child loves the food and there are many times it comes in very useful and is needed.”

Another mother writes, “I really think that the food program us a great idea and a great way to help families. My daughter really enjoyed most of the food that was sent home, especially the cereal and raisins. I hope that this wonderful program continues.”

A third parent adds “I just want to say thank you for the backpack of food. It has been very useful in a lot of ways. My little girl now likes to try new foods,” and goes on to explain how their daughter is now able to prepare their own breakfast with the cereal and milk provided.

Not only is this program helping to prepare the young lives of Eastern Kentucky with the solid foundation they need, it is also touching lives and making a difference all across the area. Carroll is quick to thank everyone who has helped in the past, which has helped make it the program what it is today.