Caring for the children in the community through donations to backpack programs

GRAFTON—More than one in four West Virginia children live in a household that does not have sufficient access to food. One local program is helping to break the cycle with help from the community.

On Friday, Leer Mine Complex donated 3,332 items to Fetterman United Methodist Church – Anna Jarvis Elementary Backpack Program.

Sheryl Perks Administrative Assistant for Leer Mine Complex expressed, “We love helping the community and supporting the children in anyway that we can.”

She shared that employees donated items and the mine matched those donations. In addition, the mine also provided items from Dollar Tree.

The FUMC-AJE Backpack Program was established three years ago. Since then, the program has grown and provided food to hundreds of children in Taylor County.

Ruth Miller Program President said, “We would like to thank Leer Mine for their continued support of the program.”

Miller shared that she came up with the idea for the program after hearing teachers at her church ask for prayers for students that needed food. She revealed that she read an article in the paper about a backpack program in Beckley, West Virginia.

“I knew this was something we needed in Taylor County. I called and talked to who was in charge of the program, and they sent me materials to get it started here.”

She disclosed the program helps approximately 250 students in Taylor County. Students from Little Feet Preschool and Daycare, Anna Jarvis Elementary School, Taylor County Middle School and Grafton High School benefit from the program.

Many organizations and churches in the community help to organize and pack items in the. “backpack packing room”, located in the Elizabeth Cather Towers, to prepare for the week’s delivery

“I have met so many great people in the community. I hope to keep this program going for years to come,” she expressed.

The bags are filled with nutritious foods, and delivered to the schools for distribution to the enrolled students. The backpacks are then returned Monday morning for the process to begin again. 

“We know many students rely on school breakfasts and lunches. Being able to make sure those students have food over the weekend is a blessing. During school breaks we try to provide enough to last,” informed Miller.

Miller expressed that she believes healthier children, who miss fewer days of school, are able to be successful in school and in life.

“We want to help break the cycle. We know if children have balanced, nutritious food they will be able to achieve more,” she voiced.

According to the West Virginia Department of Education, the backpack program is a part of the Feed to Achieve initiative.

The West Virginia Feed to Achieve is a progressive piece of legislation and is the first of its kind in the nation. The need for the bill was simple: every child needs nutritious meals in order to achieve his or her potential.

Due to high rates of poverty in our state, meals provided at school are often the only nutritious meals many children receive daily. West Virginia Feed to Achieve not only requires that every child is given the opportunity to eat two nutritious meals per school day, it also has allowed the West Virginia Office of Child Nutrition to secure funding that will support community programs that feed children while school isn’t in session.

West Virginia Feed to Achieve fills in the gaps when kids are most at risk for going hungry after school, weekends, during the summer months, holidays and snow days.

Miller shared that if a student would like to sign up for the program they can ask their teachers for a form to fill out.

For more information, to make a donation, or to schedule your group to come help pack backpacks, contact Miller by calling 304-265-4206.

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