“Grab a plastic grocery bag from the huge pile resting at the head of the long table and put one of each food item in the bag, assembly line style,” the woman coordinating says to me, because I’m new here.
That’s all volunteer packers need to know to make sure 290 kids at Fairmont Elementary, like hundreds of students at each of the other 9 Floyd County public elementary schools, receive a bag of food from Blessings in a Backpack every weekend.
As the last student runs for the bus, volunteers trickle in to Fairmont Elementary School’s gym ready to “pack backpacks” for Blessings in a Backpack. It’s not difficult work. Today, 10 people have come to help. Who are these wonderful volunteers? Some are parents. Some are grandparents of retirement age. Some are school employees who extend their work day to help. Some work at businesses nearby and have just left their jobs for a little while to help pack. On this particular day, employees of Schuler Bauer, members of Graceland Baptist Church and Central Christian Church donated their time to this cause.
The process of packing 290 grocery sacks is surprisingly speedy. They have it down to a science. Every teacher’s class is assigned a large rugged bin. The number of students needing a bag of food – which at Fairmont is almost the entire student body – is written on a piece of tape on the top of the bin. A volunteer who arrived early has already sorted out the exact number of plastic grocery sacks needed into each bin. Other early arriving helpers have opened and unpacked giant boxes filled with individual servings of crackers, cereals and fruit cups and more. When ready to begin, they lift the lid of the first bin, remove the pile of bags and each volunteer takes a bag and heads down the line.
A can of ravioli, a can of beefaroni, 1 cup of Fruit Loops cereal, 1 cup of Crispix cereal, a fruit cup or crackers and soy butter, 2 packages of cheese crackers, and a box of shelf-stable milk. It’s not a lot of food. But it’s something that these kids need. They can open it and prepare it themselves if necessary. And since it’s paid for entirely by donations from businesses and individuals, it’s important that it not cost too much. Each child’s bag of food costs only $2.11 per week.
This process of packing backpacks occurs at every public elementary school in Floyd County on a weekly basis for 38 weeks. Nearly 2,000 bags of food are packed each week. Not one single person is paid to do this. They don’t receive awards or accolades. But they know that without their help, these 290 kids at Fairmont would surely go hungry that weekend.
Volunteers are the lifeblood of Blessings in a Backpack! We are so appreciative of the countless hours donated each year to help make Floyd County a hunger-free zone on the weekends for our elementary school kids! To find out more about the different ways to volunteer with Blessings in a Backpack, please see the “Volunteer” tab on our website, www.BlessingsInABackpackFloydCounty.org.