Bookbags of Love began simplyčteachers found out their students weren’t getting enough to eat on the weekends when they were out of school. There was plenty during the week when they were in school receiving free breakfast and lunches but students were hungry when they came back on Monday morning.
The program began in 2009 with Lebanon School and Blair Road Methodist Church. The bags couldn’t weigh too much and they didn’t want the bags to be marked so everyone knew that the students were having trouble. They started feeding 25 children, and their families sometimes, by the end of the first year. By the end of the 2010 school year, the group was feeding 38 children.
The food is placed in bookbags for the students to take home every Friday. The program started with the regular type of bookbag but they didn’t come back on Monday mornings many times. Bank of America donated bags as well but they had the same problem. Now the group uses reusable grocery bags.
“Sometimes we get them back, sometimes we don’t,” Barry Smith who oversees the program said. “We don’t want that to be an issue.”
Smith said there has been a wonderful response from the community. “Teachers say they have seen a great improvement in these children. They are more alert and energized after having food to eat all weekend.”
Teachers and administrators determine which children should be part of the program. Idlewild Baptist Church in Matthews is also onboard now sending bookbags filled with food for children at Idlewild and Piney Grove Elementary Schools.
Smith said other churches and schools are getting involved too. “We know there is a need out there,” he said. “The church is the best place to do this. We ask people to pick things up and drop them off at the churches. Queen’s Grant Elementary has helped the program by raising money.”
The program worked so well last year that food was also sent out during the summer. Smith sees it continuing to grow and he wants everyone to help. Bookbags of Love is gearing up now for the new school year and hopes to feed 50 children. Anyone interested in helping can donate at the website, www.bookbagsoflove.org.
“It’s been a blessing for for us to help,” Smith said. “Everyone in the community has given of their time and money to help this program.”