TAYLOR COUNTY—The school year is in full swing, and before long, Thanksgiving and winter break will be here. To help ensure that students have food while away from school, the Fetterman United Methodist Church/Anna Jarvis Elementary School Backpack (FUMC/AJE) Program is ramping up their efforts of food collection and packaging for students.
“The FUMC-AJE Backpack Program provides food for the weekend to school children,” shared volunteer Pam Gallaher. “A group of volunteers packs the food and distributes it each week of the school year.”
Although the focus of the program was originally Anna Jarvis Elementary School, the program has grown over the years and now includes students from Little Feet Preschool and Daycare, Taylor County Middle School and Grafton High School.
According to Feeding America, one in six children may not know where or when they will receive their next meal, and for more than 12 million kids nationwide facing hunger, the lack of energy needed to learn and grow can have very harmful effects.
To combat childhood hunger locally, the FUMC/AJE program was created.
“I knew this was something we needed in Taylor County,” said creator Ruth Miller. “Our goal is to see that our local school children do not go hungry on the weekends or over school breaks.”
Through the program, applicants in the program are provided weekly with two breakfasts, two lunches, two dinners, and two snacks, to have over the course of a weekend.
“Peanut butter and jelly are also provided during the Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Spring breaks,” Gallaher noted.
The FUMC/AJE Backpack program is very simple. Volunteers meet to package donated non-perishable food items into back packs, which are then delivered to students enrolled in the program on Fridays or before school breaks.
Upon their return to school, the back packs are turned back in and filled once more.
“We want to help break the cycle of hunger,” Miller expressed. “We know if children have balanced, nutritious food, they will be able to achieve more.”
And to help break that cycle, the FUMC/AJE Backpack Program will once again be collecting items, filling back packs and delivering them to local schools to assist students who are in need of additional foods.
“Our program operates on donations and grants. We are always appreciative of any monetary or food donations that our community can provide,” Gallaher revealed.
Any non-perishable food items are welcome including peanut butter and jelly; canned chicken, tuna, sausages, or meats; canned soups and stews; chicken and dumplings; mild bean chilis; canned pasta; macaroni and cheese; ramen noodles and side bags or boxes of rice, as well as individual servings of mashed potatoes and noodles.
They will also accept individual servings of protein bars, cereal bars, fruit bars, instant oatmeal, hot chocolate, fruit cups, applesauce, teddy grahams and other snack crackers, cookies, Jello cups, puddings, raisins, chips and more.
The program is also seeking donations of plastic grocery bags to pack items into.
“We usually have a great response from the people of Taylor County and appreciate everything they do to help these children,” Miller expressed. “We are asking that those who make donations keep a couple of things in mind.”
Backpack program organizers noted that large cans can be cumbersome for students to have to carry home, donations should consist of smaller cans. In addition, glass jars cannot be accepted, because they pose a safety risk for students should they break.
For those that would like to make donations, they may be dropped off at the Mountain Statesman office, located at 914 West Main Street, during regular business hours, Monday-Thursday from 10:30 a.m. until 4:00 p.m.
Those wishing to make a monetary donation may mail their contributions to Mrs. Carolyn Bolyard, Treasurer 40 Howard Street, Apartment 201, Grafton, WV 26354.
Those with questions can reach Gallaher by phone at 304-694-1583 or by emailing [email protected]