Throughout the month of February, the Eagle will take donations for the Backyard Blessings program, which serves 189 students in the east Walker County area.
Backyard Blessings, a Sumiton-based non-profit group, provides students in need with bags of food to take home on Fridays. The bags are discretely placed in each student’s backpack during the school day.
The program provides $1,000 worth of food each week to children in Sumiton Elementary/ Middle and T.S. Boyd Elementary School. However, Executive Director Leneda Jones said the only thing keeping the group from providing the service to all schools in the county is the amount of donations coming in to the organization.
The need for the program, she said, is present in practically every school in the state.
According to a 2010 report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, nearly 7 percent of Alabama households experienced hunger over the past three years because they could not afford food.
“It’s kind of the thing no one talks about, and we just didn’t want to let it go by anymore,” she said.
Jones said the group’s efforts have recently gained momentum with news coverage from the Eagle. She said the organization has been flooded with calls from business, individuals and groups wanting to help.
“It’s kind of taken on a ground swell, and we’ve really gotten the community involved,” she said.
James Phillips, managing editor of the Eagle, said that he was compelled to help the group after writing about the program.
“We’ve published several stories about the growing hunger rate in Alabama, and this group is working so hard to eradicate those statistics that we wanted to do more than just a news story,” he said.
Jones said she hopes other businesses in the area will offer their support, too.
“If people make a push right now, it might get us through the entire school year,” she said.
Throughout this month, the Eagle will accept food and monetary donations for Backyard Blessings. The food given to area children must be non-perishable and in single serving sizes. Phillips said the items need to be something a child could prepare such as cheese crackers or instant oatmeal.
Jones said the organization also needs volunteers to sort the food items on Fridays.
She said anyone interested in helping can call 205-544-9094 or send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.