The Beginnings - 2010
In September 2010, several concerned individuals from Main St. United Methodist church in Bedford were inspired to provide a bag of food for the weekend, for children at Body Camp Elementary School in Bedford County. Over 71% of the children there qualified for free and reduced lunches during the school day, and were subsequently identified as food-insecure.
Sadly, in May 2015, the school board voted to close Body Camp Elementary, and the students were reassigned to Goodview, Moneta and Huddleston schools.
The 2015-2016 School Year
Despite the school closing, the core organizers of the Backpack Program felt committed to continue to provide the children with weekend food bags. In fact, both Moneta and Huddleston schools served over 50% of their students with free and reduced lunches. (Note: at that time, Goodview ES was receiving weekend food from another program).
Recognizing that that the program expenses would double despite the frugality with which food items are purchased, a Board of Directors was recruited, and an application for a non-profit 501(c)(3) designation was completed and approved. In September of 2015 Food For Kids: Weekend Pack-A-Sack Program was “born”.
Previously packing 119 bags per week, Food For Kids was now serving over 200 children per week. Subsequently - no surprise - expenses likewise doubled.
At the end of the school year in May 2015, Food For Kids had distributed 6,373 bags of food to the children at Moneta and Huddleston schools. While we celebrated this success, the Board also learned that the weekend food program for Goodview had run out of funds and stopped serving those children earlier in the year.
2016-2017 Food for Kids
Troubled by the needs of the children at Goodview, the Board of Food For Kids voted unanimously to include an additional 150 children from Goodview Elementary School in the weekend-pack-a-sack program beginning September 2016. This addition resulted in a new operating budget of just over $120,000.
At the end of this school year, over 11,300 bags of food were distributed .
2017-2018 Food for Kids
Toward the end of this school year, there was a need identified for a weekend food program at Montvale ES, wherein 58% of the students there are served free/reduced lunches. Logistics were developed and the addition of Montvale was initiated in September 2018, approximately 50 students.
Registration for the Program is processed by the schools; a permission form is sent home with the children for their parents to complete. Weekly, the school gives the Program a count of those asking for food assistance. The food bags are delivered to the school and the school distributes the bags to the students at the close of the school day on Friday.
2019 -2020 - 2021 Pandemic
Despite the crippling effects of COVID-19, Food For Kids continued to provide weekend food bags through the end of the school year (2019-2020) and into the next (2020-2021).
In keeping with social distancing, our inventory and packing sequence was moved to a local church wherein we were allowed use of their social hall. No more than 10 (masked) individuals were allowed to pack; truck drivers waited outside to load their vehicles to carry bags to the schools. Bags were included on school buses which were delivering lunches to the children as needed.
We began a partnership with Feeding Southwest VA (FSWVA) allowing us to secure large quantities of food designated specifically for “backpack programs”. The challenge we faced was finding a larger facility to store and pack the food bags. A location was obtained in downtown Moneta to accommodate these needs; a minimal monthly rent fee resulted.
At the end of these school years, we had packed and distributed (14,025 + 9,003=) 23,028 bags of food to the food-insecure children in the community.
2021 - 2022
With COVID precautions continuing into this next school year and classes virtual as well as in-person, we continued packing with a dedicated small team, for about 350 children per week.
We were also approached by Staunton River Middle School to help provide similar food items for their students, estimated to be 400 bags a month, available through the school counselor’s office. This program began in October of the school year.