FUMC/AJE Back Pack Program enters 7th year of feeding children

GRAFTON—Because there is a direct correlation between hunger and a student’s performance at school, one local organization continues their diligent efforts to ensure that youths receive proper nutrition.

It’s that time of year again when members of the Fetterman United Methodist Church/Anna Jarvis Elementary Back Pack (FUMC/AJE) Program begin ramping up their efforts of food collection and packaging for students.

Although the focus of the program was originally Anna Jarvis Elementary School, the program has grown over the past seven years and now includes students from Little Feet Preschool and Daycare, Taylor County Middle School and Grafton High School.

And because of the strain families have felt due to the continuance of the COVID-19 pandemic, donations are needed now more than ever.

“In past years, the program has helped approximately 250 students throughout Taylor County each week,” program co-creator Jerry Miller shared. “It is through the hard work volunteers and generous donations that this program has grown into what it is today.”

 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 by Miller, his wife, Ruth, and Fred Guidi.

R. Miller shared that she came up with the idea of the back pack 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 similar program in Beckley, she went to work.

“I knew this was something we needed in Taylor County. I called and talked to who oversaw their program, and they were kind enough to send me information and materials to get the program off the ground here,” she explained.

“Our goal is to see that our local school children do not go hungry on the weekends or over school breaks,” explained R. Miller, program president. 

The FUMC/AJE Back Pack 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 Back Pack 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. 

Although funding is available for some of the regularly packed food items, the organization gladly accepts donations. 

Any non-perishable food items are welcome including peanut butter and jelly; 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, as well as mashed potatoes and noodles.

They will also accept Pop Tarts, breakfast bars, individually wrapped snacks, and individual packages of oatmeal, cream of wheat, packs of hot chocolate, raisins or other dried fruit and boxed Jello. 

In addition, individuals may make donations of Jello, cans and cups of 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,” J. Miller expressed. “We are asking that those who make donations keep a couple of things in mind.”

He noted that large cans can be cumbersome for students to have to carry home, so organizers are asking that donations 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 8:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m.

Those wishing to make a monetary donation to the program, contributions may be mailed to Mrs. Carolyn Bolyard, Treasurer 559 Hammond Road, Grafton, WV 26354.

Anyone who would like to become part of the packing team should contact Sharon Criss by phone at 304-612-0302 or 304-265-9263.

“It has been a blessing for us to work in the program, and we look forward to the year ahead,” voiced R. Miller. “We could not have maintained this program without you!”


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