GRAFTON—It has been said that there is a direct link between hunger and a chance at a bright future for children. One local organization has a goal of ensuring that children in Grafton do not go without food.
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.
In an effort to combat childhood hunger locally, the Fetterman United Methodist Church/Anna Jarvis Elementary (FUMC/AJE) School Backpack program was created.
“Our goal is to see that our local school children do not go hungry on the weekends or over school breaks,” explained Ruth Miller, president of the FUMC/AJE Backpack Program.
Now in their sixth year, the backpack program would like to extend their heartfelt gratitude to those who have helped them meet their goal of feeing children.
“To each individual, church, business, social and civic club, the Grafton Housing Authority, the Taylor County Commission, the City of Grafton, the Taylor County Board of Education, and all the staff, teachers, bus drivers, maintenance workers and secretaries, as well as the staff of the Mountain Statesman, we sincerely thank you for your contributions of time, labor, food items, financial support and prayers,” expressed Miller. “We could not have maintained the program without you!”
Miller shared that she came up with the idea of the backpack program after hearing teachers at her church ask for prayers for their students who were in need of food. After reading an article about the institution of a backpack program in Beckley, she went to work.
“I knew this was something we needed in Taylor County. I called and talked to who was in charge of their program, and they were kind enough to send me information and materials to get the program off the ground here,” she explained.
Although the focus of the program was originally Anna Jarvis Elementary School, the program 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 250 students throughout Taylor County each week,” Miller shared. “That is an annual cost of $25,000 a year. It is through the hard work 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.”
Although some funding for food purchases is available, the organization gladly accepts donations. 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 boxed Jello. In addition, individuals may make donations of Jello cups, fruit, pudding, apple sauce or cereal cups.
For those that would like to make food donations, they may be dropped off at the Mountain Statesman office, located at 914 West Main Street, during regular business hours, Monday-Thursday from 8:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m.
Those would like to donate financially may do so by mailing checks or money orders to Mrs. Carolyn Bolyard, Treasurer 559 Hammond Road, Grafton, WV 26354.
Anyone wishing to become part of the packaging team may contact either Mrs. Sharon Criss at 304-612-0302 or Pastor Fred Guidi at 304-559-4559.
For more information, please contact Miller by calling 304-265-4206 or by emailing [email protected]
“It has been a blessing for us to work in the program, and we look forward to participating with you in the year ahead,” Miller imparted.