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Backpack Food Program in need of funding

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By Calen McKinney

 

This is the first year they haven't had enough money to pay for it. And just what that could mean for those who depend on the program is unknown.

Campbellsville and Taylor County's family resource centers began a Backpack Food Program in 2007.

Students at Campbellsville and Taylor County schools and at recently combined Campbellsville/Taylor County Head Start can be referred to the program and receive a bag of food to take home each weekend.

Sue Crabtree, coordinator of the Campbellsville Family Resource Center, said the bags contain two breakfasts and enough food to make three of four meals. Items in the bags include canned goods, cereals, fruit, crackers and more.

"It's a pretty good amount of stuff," Crabtree said.

There are no income requirements for the program, she said. Those who are enrolled in the program only need to be referred.

"It just needs to be, the child's hungry."

Once a child is referred, she said, his or her siblings are also enrolled. Anyone can refer a child to the program, Crabtree said, from bus drivers to teachers to those who visit the child's home.

"[And see] that there was nothing in their refrigerator," she said.

Food for the program is provided at low cost through Feeding America, the same organization that provides food for Taylor County Food Pantry.

The backpack program is a nonprofit group with a coordinator, chairperson, secretary, treasurer and other volunteers. The group works alongside the Taylor County Ministerial Association.

Darlene Humphress is coordinator and April Melton is chairperson. LaTasha Bell is treasurer and Crabtree is secretary. Marietta Moyers, who volunteers at the food pantry, also serves on the board.

Ann Mattingly, director of Taylor County's family resource center, is vice chairperson. She said there are 126 students at Taylor County Elementary School alone who use the backpack program.

Crabtree said about 200 students in all are enrolled in the program this school year. The cost to provide food for those 200 students is $100 each for the entire school year, which equates to $2.50 a bag.

The total cost of providing the bags of food, Crabtree said, is $20,000. So far this school year, $10,000 has been raised to pay the cost.

"We need another $10,000 for this year," she said.

Typically, she said, bags are paid for in advance at the beginning of the school year. This is the first year the backpack group hasn't been able to do that.

The cost per bag used to be 25 cents, Crabtree said, which equated to $20 per student for the entire school year.

"So that's quite significant," she said.

Crabtree said Feeding America provides the food at a much cheaper rate, so those who want to donate to the program should help pay for bags and not buy food.

"You cannot buy these items for that amount of money," she said.

If the $10,000 needed isn't raised, Crabtree said, she doesn't know if students in the program will continue to get the food they are getting now.

"This has never happened before," she said.

With the holidays approaching, Crabtree said, many people will pitch in to make sure all families have a holiday meal. But the backpack program helps for much longer than the holidays.

"This helps somebody all year long."

And Crabtree said those who get the bags of food, including students and their parents, have expressed gratitude for it.

"They'll look for it," she said. "It goes straight to them."

For those who might be a bit embarrassed to receive the help, Crabtree said they shouldn't feel that way. She said school staff members try to give the food to those students discretely to save them any embarrassment.

Donations to the backpack program are tax deductible and Crabtree said anyone is welcome to donate. She said church groups, individuals and private organizations have donated in the past. Donations should be in the form of checks to Taylor County Backpack Program.

To donate, call Campbellsville family resource center at 789-2718 or Taylor County's family resource center at 465-3978.