Blessings in a Backpack SWFL Is Feeding 5,000 Children On the Weekends

Blessings in a Backpack SWFL Is Feeding 5,000 Children On the Weekends

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How do you feed 5,000 school children who otherwise might go hungry on the weekends? Blessings in a Backpack SWFL knows the answer: awareness to a need and open hearts.

The donations of a generous community have enabled Blessings in a Backpack to feed an additional 700 children since August, increasing the number of total children in Lee and Collier counties to more than 5,000 for the first time.

Schools recently added to the list of children who receive a backpack full of food — two breakfasts and two lunches — on Fridays to help them and their families through the weekend are: Christa McAuliffe Charter, Tropic Isles, Harlem Heights Charter and RCMA in Immokalee, which is the first school in Collier County to get food.

“This is huge,” Blessings in a Backpack Managing Director Cecilia St. Arnold said. “When we took over in the 2014-15 school year, we did 2,300 kids, so it has more than doubled in five years. There are so many wonderful donors stepping up to help in this epidemic occurring all over the country. We aren’t a big nonprofit and there are not a lot of people aware of us or how great the need is. There are food insufficient children and families. There is an education component to this.”

Blessings in a Backpack steps up where federal aid stops by feeding children on the weekend. Every Friday afternoon, children receive packages filled with nutritious, kid-friendly, ready-to-eat food items. Students return to school every Monday morning with a full stomach and an eager mind. In partnership with Lee and Collier county schools, Blessings in a Backpack has helped dramatically improve test scores, reading skills, behavior and general health.

The food is distributed by Sysco to each of the 23 schools in the program.

“A lot of people still suffer even in a good economy,” Ms. St. Arnold said. “That’s kind of a big message for us. I think there is synergy right now. There is momentum. The doors just keep opening for us. But we have barely scratched the surface. We could feed 60,000 children between Lee and Collier counties.”

Creative World School volunteers joined Managing Director Cecilia St. Arnold to pack 100 bags of food for kids in SWFL on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.