“Backpack Buddies” program prepares snacks for children in need

Published 7:00 am Friday, February 14, 2014

By Mary Williams

Nicholson Assistant Principal

School-community volunteers address the hunger issue of low-income families in the Picayune School District by feeding needy children in grades kindergarten through sixth at several elementary schools.

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First United Methodist Church (FUMC) and First Baptist Church of Nicholson (FBCN) partnered as community leaders to begin a “Backpack Buddies” Program. The purpose of the project is to dispense nutritious and easy-to-prepare snacks to low-income children attending Picayune School District. This program helps provide the proper nutrition necessary for overall growth, as well as the physical, and cognitive, development necessary for satisfactory performance in schools.

Today, bags of nutritional child-friendly foods are assembled at Seashore Missions then delivered to First United Methodist Church in Picayune. Early in August each individual elementary school identifies low-income children needing nutritional snacks. A school-community group of volunteers meet at FUMC to divide bags according to the necessities requested at each elementary school. The ”Backpack Buddies” are then distributed to low-income children at Nicholson, Roseland Park, and West Side Elementary schools every Friday and before each holiday. A total of 150 “Backpack Buddies” bags are assembled and delivered weekly to each low-income Picayune School District child identified.

Food for the “Backpack Buddies” Program may seem moderately expensive at $3 per bag. However, in addition to being nutritious, all items must be child-friendly, easy-to-open with little or no preparation, and require no refrigeration.

While Seashore Missions serves as the food distribution center, this program’s success is credited to the many area churches, businesses, various organizations, clubs, as well as individuals who have been very dedicated with their time, monetary contributions, and food donations to the local Backpack Buddies” Program for Picayune School District’s low-income children. This worthy program would not be conceivable without the selfless gifts by so many actively concerned school-community volunteers.

Today’s economy has triggered a growth of more families needing food assistance for children. Low-income families often have little access to nutritious food outside of school breakfast and school lunch programs. The local “Backpack Buddies” Program is eager to reach the increasing essential needs of more children within the Picayune School District.

More churches, businesses, organizations, clubs and individuals are necessary in order to expand our program to incorporate the rising needs of low-income families within the Picayune School District’s school community.

For more information about how to sponsor the “Backpack Buddies” Program through monetary gifts (Paid to the Order of First United Methodist Church – ”Backpack Program”), food items, or volunteering your time, contact Lillian Charnel or Judy Byrd at First United Methodist Church in Picayune (601-798-4321).