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.
According to the United States Department of Agriculture, one in six Americans is food insecure, and that includes one in four children. Alabama has the highest percentage of households facing very low food security in the nation.
A 2010 report from the USDA showed that nearly seven percent of Alabama households experienced hunger from 2007 to 2010 because they couldn’t afford enough food. I’m sure that number is even higher within Walker County.
I’m 6-foot-2 and only a few twinkies shy of 300 pounds. It’s quite obvious that I’ve never gone hungry. I have a wife and four 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.
Backyard Blessings 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.
The group helped 211 students at Sumiton Elementary/Middle School, T.S. Boyd Elementary School and Dora High School at the end of last school year. Executive Director Leneda Jones said she expects that number to rise this fall.
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 a little more than $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.
Last year, the Daily Mountain Eagle held a month-long food drive in February to benefit Backyard Blessings, and our paper was able to collect $1,500 in food and another $750 in monetary donations to give to the group.
The group is hosting its second annual fundraiser concert on July 28, and I was honored to be asked to serve as the event’s honorary chairman. I’m an east Walker County guy, growing up in a mobile home in Empire. I care about the people of east Walker, and no child in that area should every have to be hungry. I was quick to accept the role of honorary chairperson, and I wanted to do more than just help publicize the event. With the blessing of everyone at the Eagle, we’ve decided to do another food drive.
For the entire month of July, 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 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 each of our employees to consider giving at least $5 to the drive, because that is the cost to 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 beginning Monday and will continue until 5 p.m. on July 27.
The group will also accept donations at its event on Saturday, July 28, which will feature music from a variety of bands, including the Kool Katz, Rick and Jilda Watson and Old Machines. The concert will take place at the football field adjacent to the Sumiton Community Center. We’ll print more information about the concert as it becomes available.
For more information on Backyard Blessings, contact executive director Leneda Jones 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 is Editor of the Daily Mountain Eagle and can be reached at 205-221-2840 or firstname.lastname@example.org.