Local schools are closed, so what about the kids who depend on their school for breakfast and lunch?
That’s where the Blessings in a Backpack program comes into play, thanks to Schuler Bauer Real Estate Services in Seymour and other local sponsors.
“At Schuler Bauer, we are always looking for ways to connect within the community,” said Pam Kindel, office manager for the Seymour office.
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She said Schuler Bauer is a great company, and she thinks they are all blessed to work there.
“We are involved in several community-related projects throughout the year,” she said. “Blessings in a Backpack started with us seeing a need within the community and deciding to take action.”
The program mobilizes communities, individuals and resources to provide food on the weekends for elementary school children in 45 states and the District of Columbia who might otherwise go hungry.
“It is my understanding that Brown, Jackson and Redding have a program in place that is similar to Blessings in a Backpack,” Kindel said. “We made contact with all of the local schools, and there was a strong need at Emerson for a program.”
Kindel said they have had school counselors from other schools reach out to Schuler Bauer needing additional sacks at their schools.
It has been nice to be able to bridge that gap, and they anticipate the program to grow and the need to rise in the future, she said.
In fact, 11 million kids in America won’t have enough food to eat this weekend, according to blessingsinabackpack.org.
The current public health emergency has highlighted just how vulnerable these 11 million food-insecure children are.
Those kids usually rely on the food that schools provide during the week and Blessings in a Backpack food on the weekends. The school closures have changed this arrangement.
“Blessings in a Backpack was scheduled to start after spring break; however, with the state’s decision to stay at home as much as possible, we wanted to find a way to still be able to get meals to kids,” Kindel said. “After speaking with Ryon Wheeler with the Boys and Girls Club, we decided to take the meals to the club so that kids could have access to them on the weekends.”
Wheeler, executive director of the Boys and Girls Club of Seymour, said they are glad to help with the program.
“Not all of the kids here utilize it, though, so we’ve been dropping those backpacks off to some of our families who are in need,” he said.
Kindel said they dropped off their first shipment March 26, and the kids were able to go home with the bags the next day, which was a great feeling to be able to get that out there.
Kindel said Schuler Bauer has worked with several different community partners to help fund the project.
“We try to order at least a month’s worth of food at a time. Then we meet with volunteers at the school and put the sacks together,” Kindel said. “We also fill out small notes that go into each bag that have words of encouragement to remind the kids how awesome they are.”
Kindel said it has been a great way to engage members of the community and raise awareness to a need that has been long overlooked.
“Blessings in a Backpack works with nutritionists to develop weekend menus that provide the most protein for the dollar spent,” she said. “The food given to the kids is shelf stable, easy to open and requires no preparation or access to appliances.”
Kindel said it costs roughly $130 per kid each school year to send these weekly meals home with them. A majority of the community partners sponsor several children throughout the school year.
Some of the sponsors that help make the program possible are Bailey and Wood Financial Group, Integrity Mortgage Group, Seymour Noon Lions Club, Centra Credit Union and First Financial Bank.
Also helping are Jackie Hare Farm Bureau, D and E Abstract and Title Co., Blush and Brush Beauty Bar, Madison Rudolph, Michael Ellis, Anne Carlin, Bob Poynter GM and Darnell Dukes.
“Everyone in our office is passionate about serving the community and making an impact,” Kindel said. “We do anticipate a need for more volunteers as the program continues to grow.”
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Anyone interested in helping pack sacks for the Blessings in a Backpack program or wanting more information should email [email protected] or call 812-216-2297.