GREEN COVE SPRINGS | Magnolia Point Women’s Club recently completed its fifth year of feeding hungry children – students at Charles E. Bennett Elementary School – on weekends during the school year.
The club, located in Green Cove Springs, on June 2 marked the fifth anniversary of its annual participation in the Blessings in a Backpack program.
“Who would have thought we would be assisting 160 children with food insecurity each week. When we started Blessings in a Backpack (BIB) five years ago, we were packing for 80 children,” said Cheryle Newman, chairman of the club’s Blessings in a Backpack program.
Blessings in a Backpack is a results-oriented program that is designed to feed elementary school children whose families qualify for the federally funded National School Lunch Program, and have little or no food on the weekends.
The 2016 estimates for Green Cove Springs were 7,666, and 16 percent of that population were considered living in poverty including many children. During school days, the children receive free or reduced-priced meals. But on weekends, those children would go hungry, according to the women’s club.
The Blessings in a Backpack food includes eight to 10 nutritious, easy-to-prepare, ready-to-eat foods such as granola bars, juice boxes, macaroni and cheese, and oatmeal, the club said.
“The Magnolia Point Women’s Club would like to thank Walmart, who has been a partner every year since this project was started in 2012. Walmart’s generous and continued support in filling orders, providing plastic bags for packing up the food and contributing $200 – supporting us with small donations over the years – is deeply appreciated,” said Allen Eastman, a club committee member for the Blessings in a Backpack program.
The women’s club has given $344,518 to those in need, primarily in Green Cove Springs and Clay County, over the years.
Its initiatives include assistance to children whose family income is below the poverty level at Charles E. Bennett Elementary School, which is 90% of the students, and awarding scholarships to young women at Clay High School.
For its Blessings in a Backpack program, the club has raised $58,000 in pledges from members along with corporate sponsors including Winn-Dixie Foundation, Encore, Comcast, Elks Lodge BPOE No. 1892 and CISNEF (Communities In Schools of Northeast Florida).
The club said the outpouring of community support has been overwhelming with contributions of food from Waste Not Want Not, KeyImpact Sales and Systems, and Walmart.
But most of all, the success of the program is due to the willingness of the 75 women’s club volunteers, divided into nine teams, who show up every Friday to pack the bags for the children.
For more information or to donate, visit blessingsinabackpack.org or www.mpwc.org.