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In 2007, Grace Episcopal started a chapter of Backpack Buddies, a program developed by the Interfaith Food Shuttle in Raleigh, NC. 

This program provides a healthy supplement to weekend meals for children of low-income families. Most of these children qualify for free or reduced lunch at school, so Backpack Buddies is a way to ensure that they have enough to eat on the weekends.

“Statewide, one in four children are growing up in poverty,” Laila A. Bell, director of research and data at NC Child, said in an article in the Smithfield Herald. “Food insecurity is a very serious byproduct of poverty that’s making its presence felt in Johnston County. No child should ever go to bed hungry, but unfortunately, that’s what’s happening to children across the county.”

Grace started with 5 hungry children in 2007. Now, with the help of Interfaith Food Shuttle and First Baptist Church, 55 children from Cooper Elementary School are served. On Friday afternoons, these children are given a backpack filled with canned fruit and vegetables, healthy snacks, 100% juice boxes, soup and/or noodles and 2 proteins. Then the backpacks are returned to school on the following Monday. And the process starts again.

Pat Bacheler, a Backpack Buddies volunteer, says of her experience, “The backpack buddies program at Grace appealed to me last year especially with mentors like Tina Huber and Jill Allen, I became involved at first in packing the food and then last semester delivering to Cooper Elementary. I do not see the kids who we deliver these backpacks to because we deliver to the school after hours. However, I have interaction with the lovely folks at First Baptist and with the school staff and teachers. What dedicated and uplifting people they all are. And last year I was a volunteer in 1st grade at Cooper and saw and heard some sad stories about these sweet children. So when I leave the school around 4:45 on Thursdays after delivering the backpacks, I picture these children in my mind and feel like I may have contributed in a small way to helping them and their families.”

At Grace, we are responsible for packing 15 backpacks per week. Donations are accepted and welcome at any time. For example, we use 30 cans of vegetables each week (2 / backpack). Cash donations are much appreciated as are food donations. Every little bit helps!

For more information, or, if you want to volunteer your time or donations, contact Jill Allen.