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Back Pack Buddies fight local child hunger

By JOYANNA LOVE/ Senior Staff Writer

Union Grove Baptist Church is in its third year of helping fight child hunger in Jemison schools.

Some students rely on the school system’s free and reduced lunch program and may go hungry during the weekend.

The program Back Pack Buddies discretely provides food for the weekend to children in need at Jemison Elementary and Intermediate schools.

Keri Calloway of Back Pack Buddies said the school identifies students who may not have food over the weekend, and teachers slip the food bags into their backpacks when students are out of the classroom.

“After school starts, they usually know within a week who will need it,” Calloway said.

A letter goes home to parents of students who have been recommended for the program.

Program volunteers do not know which students the program serves. They only know how many bags a school needs.

Calloway said JIS was added this year, and she hopes to see the program expanded through partnerships with other churches and schools.

“I am really trying to encourage other churches to get involved and adopt a school,” Calloway said.

In the past three years, the Union Grove team has developed a good plan and system for purchasing of food and distribution. Calloway said she would be happy to share details and tips with anyone interested.

“This is a program that has grown in our area, and if it’s a need here I know it’s a need in other areas,” Calloway said.

By buying in bulk, the program has gotten the cost for each bag, which contains food for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks, down to $3 each.

Calloway said the items are ready-to-eat or things that a child could fix by themselves.

Volunteers deliver the food to the schools once a month, and the teachers give out the food to students in the program on a weekly basis.

The expansion into JIS involved a meeting with school administration and teachers to explain the program.

Calloway said churches interested in supporting such a program, but not ready to take on such a project, could contribute to the Union Grove Back Pack Buddies program.

The program is funded through donations and fundraising.

For more information on partnering with the church contact Union Grove at (205) 688-3101. For more information about starting a Back Pack Buddies program, contact Calloway at (205) 552-9038.