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Second Harvest of the Big Bend is gearing up for this year's Backpack Program

Posted at 6:27 PM, Jul 13, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-13 18:27:02-04

According to Feeding America, 16,000 children in Leon County are food insecure. One initiative is making sure no child has to go without a meal. Second Harvest of the Big Bend is looking to give 3,000 backpacks full of food every Friday to kids in need so they don't go hungry over the weekend.

There are 400 students at Oak Ridge Elementary school.

An estimated 80-90% of students at the school are on free or reduced lunch.

Principal Jasmine Smith has seen a rise in need, especially after the pandemic. "Children at lunch sometimes taking food, putting it in their pockets, not eating all of their lunch because they wanted to take home a snack, take something home," said Smith.

She said they help by offering a food pantry where families can come and shop for healthier food items.

However, Smith believes the impact of students having food to get them through the weekend is almost immeasurable. "I've seen the difference in our student's academic scores, our attendance, student's overall well-being."

Oak Ridge Elementary is one of 30 schools across the Big Bend region participating in Second Harvest's Backpack program, which gives students in need enough food on Fridays to get them through the weekends.

They're raising money for this program through the Envision No Hunger Campaign. Envision Credit Union has been partnering with Second Harvest for years, but wanted to do something more. They're matching donations throughout the month of July up to $30,000.

Darrly Worrell is happy to be able to support local education. "It's just a small way that we can support our community by giving back through school a children food based program," said Worrell.

Monique Ellsworth is hoping to address the rising need of families in the community. "What we're making sure is that the parent and the child aren't having to go without the nutritional needs that they obviously would have day to day."

Ellsworth is hoping to have more community engagement this year by inviting people to help pack 20,000 backpacks full of food for students. The backpack packing blitz event will be July 22nd.