GALLIPOLIS — For many of us, it is hard to imagine going an entire week-end without food. However, the stark reality is that there are children in Gallia County who return to school on Monday morning hungry.
These children anxiously anticipate the free breakfast available at their school. Teachers or others involved in the school free meal program consistently monitor and note any unusual instances of children appearing excessively hungry.
When questioned, the children often share that they had little or no food available in their homes.
Nationally last year, according to the Department of Agriculture, nearly 15 million students qualified for the free lunch program.
A group known as the Gallia County Snack Pack Organization is currently organizing to assist local students. The program targets school-age children who qualify for free or reduced lunch assistance. The blueprint for Gallia County’s program comes from a national program created by America’s Second Harvest Food Bank Network.
According to a recent article in USA Today, over 50,000 children are already benefiting from this initiative in over 40 states across the country. Many educators feel that attendance, test scores and ability to learn are positively impacted when children are receiving additional nourishment through programs such as this.
The Gallia County Snack Pack group working in conjunction with the PTO in the participating school will begin supplying backpacks filled with non-perishable, child-friendly food items for week-end nourishment in late February.
Initially, Gallia County’s pilot program will provide supplies on the last week-end of the month at one local elementary school. The packs will be delivered to students at Rio Grande Elementary School on Friday, Feb. 29.
The long-range goal is to supply snack packs every Friday during the school year to all needy elementary-age children in Gallia County. Each backpack will contain healthful foods such as fruit cups, juice, milk, crackers, peanut butter and other items such as macaroni and cheese, soups or beef stew. Items are chosen based on minimal preparation and nutritive value.
Local churches and other community organizations have been very responsive to helping supply both food items and volunteer help in assembling the bags for distribution.
If you would like more information on this project or would like to help, contact Nancy Smith at 446-3939.