Effingham Daily News, Effingham, IL

May 9, 2013

Local program to fill in hunger gap for needy children

NICOLE DOMINIQUE
Effingham Daily News

---- — Concerned community members are taking action against hunger by joining a national program that will help feed local needy children on the weekends.

Blessings in a Backpack will ensure children are getting the nutrition they need on the days they don't have access to free or reduced lunches at school.More than 50 percent of students in Effingham Unit 40 School District are eligible for the federally funded free or reduced lunch program, meaning many go hungry on Saturday and Sunday when parents and guardians struggle to put food on the table.“This is a real issue, right here, right now in our community,” said Jamie Waldhoff, who with Kelsey Weber and Nikki Jones is launching the nationwide program in Effingham. “There are hundreds of children in Effingham who do not have access to the foods they need over the weekend. As a community, we must react to this situation and do what is needed to ensure children are not going hungry when they are not at school to receive food.”

“Hunger doesn't stop for these children on the weekends,” she added.Blessings in a Backpack will put quick- or no-preparation foods in the bags of these children on Fridays before the school day ends. Items include granola bars, juice boxes, instant macaroni and oatmeal.The program will be aimed at South Side and Central elementary schools, as well as Fresh Start Treatment and Learning Center, and will expand once things are up and running at these schools.The program will begin in August, serving approximately 130 students at the start of the school year.

"it is our intention for those numbers to increase as needs arise throughout the year,” Waldhoff said. “However … we need the community's help in raising money.”The organization estimates $80 will feed one child in the program for the entire 38-week school year.Waldhoff said the money donated does more than just purchase the food for the children.

"This food nourishes the children and gives them the strength to succeed. Better test scores, improved reading skills, positive behavior, improved health and increased attendance have all been attributed to the success of this program," she said.

Info Box

Want to donate?

All donations are tax deductible and can be made via the website www.blessingsinabackpack.org or by check donations, payable to Blessings in a Backpack, Effingham, and mailed to Blessings in a Backpack Effingham, P.O. Box 28, Effingham, IL 62401. Local organizers can be reached by email at effinghambackpack@yahoo.com. For more information or to donate, visit www.blessingsinabackpack.org or “like” the local chapter on facebook at Blessings in a Backpack — Effingham, IL.

Nicole Dominique can be reached at 217-347-7151, ext. 138, or at nicole.dominique@effinghamdailynews.com.