Volunteer group works to keep kids from going hungry on weekends

Coast volunteers pack Blessings in a Backpack to stop hunger

GULFPORT, Miss. (WLOX) - Millions of children around America go hungry on weekends, but a national program called Blessings in a Backpack wants to change that.

Volunteers on the Gulf Coast fill bags with food, deliver them to schools and do their part to ensure school children have plenty to eat. Caring volunteers spend their Thursdays filling backpacks with food at Trinity United Methodist Church in Gulfport.

It’s designed to provide food for at-risk kids over the weekend. The goal is to make sure no child goes to bed hungry. The group works with the Gulfport School District.

“We have the school counselors or nurses choose the children who have a need. The teachers let them know. They find out who may be hungry or not. We pack the food here every week. We have private donations and sometimes we get grants. We pack the food and deliver on Fridays to the schools,” said Leslie Suit, who started this program in 2011.

Vickie Lawrence taught for 40 years. She and other teachers and administrators knew school children and their families were having trouble making ends meet and were not getting the necessary nutritional intake at home.

“Hungry kids can’t learn. They need to know that they’re taken care of and they have people who care about them,” she said.

Hunger does not take a break on the weekend, so the group recruits volunteers and asks for donations to keep the program running.

The food is delivered on Thursdays, taken home by the kids on Friday and then the volunteers come back and do it all over again.

They have identified the schools and children most in need of the help.

“All of the children we serve are on the federal free lunch program. We serve 28th Street, Central and Bel Aire. For instance, at 28th Street, 94% of the students are at or below the poverty level. There’s a huge problem right under our nose, in our community,” Suit said.

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