GRAFTON—May is upon us and the 2021-22 school year is dwindling down. Soon the hallways will be empty, and students will be enjoying summer break, but for many kids, that means that healthy meals may not be provided.
To help ensure that food insufficiency needs are met, the Fetterman United Methodist Church/Anna Jarvis Elementary School Backpack Program is calling on the compassionate hearts of the community to donate items that can be sent home with students.
“Our goal is to see that our local school children do not go hungry on the weekends or over school breaks,” explained Jerry Miller, one of the program’s organizers. “Unfortunately, some families are unable to provide healthy, nutritious meals for their children, especially when they’re not in 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.
Miller shared that the idea of the backpack program stemmed from hearing teachers ask for prayers for their students who were in need of food.
“This is without a doubt something we needed in Taylor County. We contacted a program in Beckley and they sent us information and materials to get the program off the ground here,” he explained.
Although the focus of the program was originally Anna Jarvis Elementary School, the initiative has grown through generous contributions and grants and now includes students from Little Feet Preschool and Daycare, Taylor County Middle School and Grafton High School.
“The program helps approximately hundreds of students throughout Taylor County each week,” Miller shared. “It is through the hard work of volunteers and generous donations that this program has grown into what it is today.”
The program is very simple. Volunteers meet to package donated non-perishable food items into backpacks. The backpacks are delivered to students enrolled in the program on Fridays or before school breaks. Upon their return to school, the backpacks 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.”
With the summer break upon them, the organization has begun accepting donations to help fill the stomachs of the area’s youth.
According to Miller, the FUMC/AJE Backpack program will be collecting peanut butter and jelly, in plastic jars, to send home with children, as well as other non-perishable or shelf-stable items.
Any non-perishable food items are welcome including canned chicken, tuna, sausages, or meats; beef stews; chicken and dumplings; mild bean chilis; canned pasta; soups; macaroni and cheese; ramen noodles and side bags of rice, mashed potatoes and noodles.
They will also accept pop tarts, breakfast bars, individually wrapped snacks, and individual packages of oatmeal, hot chocolate, raisins or other dried fruit and box Jello. In addition, individuals may make donations of Jello cups, fruit, pudding, apple sauce or cereal cups.
“We usually have a great response from the people of Taylor County and appreciate everything they do to help these children,” Miller expressed.
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-Wednesday from 10:00 a.m. until 3:30 p.m.
For more information, to make a donation or to schedule a time to volunteer to help pack backpacks, please contact Miller by calling 304-934-1671 or by emailing [email protected]