Sometimes, a meal or two in a school cafeteria is the only food a child will receive in a day. On the weekends, those children may not have any food at all.
A 2010 report from the United States Department of Agriculture showed that nearly seven percent of Alabama households experienced hunger over the past three years because they couldn’t afford enough food. I’m sure that number is even higher within Walker County.
I’m 6-foot-2 and almost 300 pounds. It’s quite obvious that I’ve never gone hungry. I have a wife and three children, and despite having a lean family budget, I can honestly say that my family has never gone a day without a meal. There are a lot of people in our own backyards that can’t say that.
A couple of weeks ago, I had the pleasure of writing a news story about the Backyard Blessings organization in east Walker County. The group is a Sumiton-based nonprofit that addresses the needs of hungry children from struggling families by providing bags of food that students take home from school on weekends.
Backyard Blessings currently helps 189 students at Sumiton Elementary/Middle School and T.S. Boyd Elementary School. Each child receives a bag full of food that will provide them with meals and snacks for the weekend. The food is discreetly placed in each child’s backpack before the end of school each Friday.
The group is currently providing about $1,000 worth of food per week to children in east Walker County, but the demand is growing. Backyard Blessings purchases the food solely from money received from donations.
After speaking with the folks involved with Backyard Blessings and seeing the impact they are making, I tried to think of ways that I could help the group. A front page story in the Daily Mountain Eagle provided some much needed publicity for the group, but I felt like there was more that I could do and that our newspaper could do to help this group.
For the entire month of February, the Daily Mountain Eagle is sponsoring a food drive to benefit Backyard Blessings. We will accept food donations as well as monetary donations for the program.
For those interested in bringing food items, the group needs donations that are individual serving sizes and are non-perishable. Typical food given by Backyard Blessings include microwavable soups or pastas, Beanee Weenees, juice boxes, fruit cups, raisins, individual serving cereal boxes, pudding cups, cheese crackers, instant oatmeal or grits, hot chocolate mix and cookies.
Many of the students who are given food have to make it themselves, so remember that when purchasing items. It has to be something they can easily put in the microwave, heat and eat. They can’t take things like canned vegetables, because the children can’t prepare them on their own.
For anyone who would like to donate money to the group, any amount is helpful. I’m going to ask our employees to consider giving at least $5 to the drive, because that is the cost of one bag of food that would feed a child for a weekend.
The Eagle will accept donations Monday through Friday between the hours of 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monetary donations may also be mailed to Backyard Blessings Food Drive, c/o Daily Mountain Eagle, P.O. Box 1469, Jasper, AL. Checks should be made out to Backyard Blessings. We will accept donations for the food drive until 5 p.m. on Feb. 28.
For more information on Backyard Blessings, contact Leneda Jones, executive director, at 205-544-9094.
Walker County is an area full of generous citizens, and I want to go ahead and thank you for what you will do through this initiative. May God bless you all.
James Phillips can be reached at 205-221-2840 or firstname.lastname@example.org.