Backpack Buddies keeping students South Mississippi Strong

Backpack Buddies keeping students South Mississippi Strong

LONG BEACH, MS (WLOX) - In Long Beach, a group of volunteers is taking a hands-on approach to the fight against hunger and food insecurity.

Filling bags with food is something Lori Cripple has been doing for the last seven years.

"We saw a story on WLOX about a Backpack Buddies program in Pascagoula and it just sat with us. We wondered if that was a need in Long Beach," said Cripple.

The group's mission is to provide food for students who do not have anything to eat at home during the weekends when away from school.

"When you're hungry, you're not in the mood to do anything. Most children act out when they're hungry. When they're not hungry, they behave better and they're really ready to learn," said Quarles Elementary School principal Dr. Jan Hansen.

Making sure the students of South Mississippi are healthy and strong is where Backpack Buddies comes in.

"So many of them don't have food to eat on the weekends, and this is our way of giving to them," said volunteer Carol Herr.

The cause is led by women from churches around Long Beach who collect food donations. They gather every two weeks at the First United Methodist Church and divide a variety of food in individual bags.

The bags include food for all meals of the day.

After filling the bags, the meals are delivered to all five Long Beach public schools and handed out for students to take home on Fridays. Backpack buddies helps feed the 119 students who are registered for the program.

"I have parents call me on a regular basis asking for resources to help them get food," said Long Beach school district social worker Michelle Eleuterius. "So having backpack buddies here at the schools just makes it very easy for us to say 'Let me hook you up with this resource.'"

It costs about $20,000 a year to buy enough food to make sure the children in need are taken care of; a sacrifice the volunteers are happy to make.

"We see a need in our community and it doesn't matter who we are or where we come from, what our backgrounds are," Cripple said. "There's a need to feed children and that supersedes anything else. We want to come together and meet that need for them."

For more information on the Backpack Buddies program, visit

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