On average, the Hopkins County School system feeds 516 food-insecure students on most weekends through its Backpack Blessings program, which typically ends when schools closes for the summer
In this unprecedented time of COVID-19, the school district wants to continue to provide the program throughout the summer, but monetary donations are needed.
Inside of a blessing’s yellow bag are single-serve non-perishable food items that are easy to prepare, said director of pupil personnel April Devine.
“We try to search for items that are high in protein for their main meal. It includes items for breakfast, lunch and dinner, as well as snacks,” she said. “That’s for a Friday evening meal, a Saturday breakfast, lunch and dinner, and Sunday breakfast, lunch and dinner.”
Devine said it costs $15 a week to feed each child. At their distribution center, they have enough food to get through the rest of the school year. To continue feeding students over the summer, the district needs $7,740 a week.
First Christian Church’s Rev. Kara Foster said her church had made both financial and food donations toward the program.
“I think it’s an important ministry,” she said. “It reminds me of what Jesus said, ‘Whatever you do to the least of these who are members of my family, you do to me,’ and hungry children in our community are in such a vulnerable time through this pandemic. It’s just a way that we could try to be the church right now.”
With many families out of work and staying healthy at home, Foster said she knows a lot of them are struggling.
“They might feel alone and overwhelmed by all they’re facing, but ministries like Backpack Blessings give people a tangible reminder that people care,” she said. “I hope every kid who receives these backpacks on the weekends, get a little reminder that somebody loves and cares for them.”
Backpack Blessings is a program run through the district’s Family Resource Center. Madisonville North Hopkins High School Family Resource Coordinator Randall Campbell said every Friday he delivers between 45 and 50 bags. When he gets to his last stop at an apartment complex, Campbell said students are waiting for their yellow bags, because to them, it’s what they need, it’s valuable.
“I’m not from here, which gives me a great perspective on moving here. You get a sense of the people who live here, they joke about the fact that it’s named the ‘Best Town on Earth,’ but when you come and get to know the people, the people here have the best hearts,” he said. “They will take care of people if they know the need, they’ll embrace it. Around this county, you’ll see horrible home conditions, and we take care of those families because every kid deserves the right to dream for a better day, and this helps.”
Funds raised for Backpack Blessings don’t just benefit the program but benefit the Family Resource Center as a whole. During the pandemic, resource coordinators are working from home, but they are still providing needs for county families, said Devine.
“We have families that have been quarantined, and we have taken them groceries. We have had families that have had total loss house fires, and we have been working to help them start to rebuild their life,” said Devine. “Anything that our Family Resource Center will take care of during the course of the year, we have been taking care of those needs as well.”
If you are interested in donating to the Family Resource Center, donations can be made out and mailed to Hopkins County Schools at 320 South Seminary Street in Madisonville. Memo lines for checks can be made to “Family Resource Center” and “Backpack Blessings.”