The Blessing Is in the Backpack
By Lisa Blount, Program Coordinator for Blessings in a Backpack, Stockton, California
I started Blessings in a Backpack through my church because I felt God placed it on my heart to do something that not only had impact, but also met a practical need. As a school volunteer, I saw the great needs of many of our children. While I couldn’t meet every need, I could meet a specific one: feed the children.
First I had to set up a program and find an educational site to support, and then raise funds. My church had a relationship with The Center, Peniel Mission in Stockton, California, that became our educational site choice. Although it is not a school, they run an after-school academic program that allowed us to serve them as we would a school. It also helped that Bob and Lisa Margaron, WGM missionaries and directors at The Center, were my neighbors.
The children who attend The Center are from schools with 100 percent participation in Federal Free Meal programs and are in the poorest parts of our city. Kids in this program are fed during the week, but many do not have enough to eat over the weekends.
Blessings in a Backpack provides elementary school children with a backpack of food to take home for 38 weekends during the school year. Items include easy-to-prepare, ready-to-eat foods, such as beans, mac and cheese, oatmeal, and fruit. Better test scores, improved reading skills, positive behavior, improved health, and increased attendance have all been attributed to the success of this program.
My church held a month-long fundraising campaign to raise enough to support 50 kids for a three-year commitment, the minimum the program requests. Teachers have determined it takes about three years to see the gains in students in the program. We now have raised funds to support an additional 10 kids for three years. One hundred percent of the funds raised goes to buy food.
We handed out the first backpacks in January 2013. I do the shopping, my team packs the bags and delivers them to the Margarons, and they distribute the bags every Friday afternoon of the school year.
Anyone can start a group to serve their community!