Paper. Pencils. A ruler. Food probably isn’t what comes next on anybody’s list, but Blessings in a Backpack SWFL is out to change that. The organization that feeds hungry children on the weekends is proclaiming food as the most essential school supply.
“Children can’t do much in the classroom without food to fuel them,” said Cecilia St. Arnold, executive director of Blessings in a Backpack SWFL. “We’re getting the whole community behind us to give kids the nutrition they need to learn.”
Blessings in a Backpack SWFL is part of a national network that serves children on the weekend, when the federal free and reduced-price school lunch program doesn’t cover them. Each Friday afternoon, Blessings in a Backpack gives children packages of nutritious, ready-to-eat food that’s enough to last until they return to school on Monday morning.
A record 4,500 Southwest Florida children will benefit from Blessings in a Backpack SWFL this school year. The expansion is thanks to widespread community support, but St. Arnold points out the need still far outpaces the organization’s ability to address it.
“More than 60,000 elementary school students in Lee and Collier counties receive free and reduced-price breakfasts and lunches during the week, so we still have a long way to go,” she said. “With school starting up again, the time to get involved is now.”
The first day of school is Aug. 12 in Lee County and Aug. 13 in Collier County. A donation of $100 is enough to feed a child for the entire school year. Blessings in a Backpack invites those interested in giving to find out how they can help at blessingsinswfl.org.