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Making sure no child goes hungry at any time

Dee Travis, Debbie Bradley and Jodie Hunt fill bags of food for school children at Rock Hill Elementary for the Backpack Buddies project.


ELIZABETH TOWNSHIP — For Dee Travis, it all started over a can of tuna.

The literacy coordinator for Rock Hill Elementary School was walking through the hallway one morning last spring when she heard some boys talking behind her.

One of the boys said he was hungry and in a hurry to get to breakfast.

“I need to get to breakfast,” the boy said. “All I had last night was a can of tuna. My brother and I shared it.”

That short conversation, not even meant for Travis to hear, was the catalyst for the Backpack Buddies program.

“That got it all started,” Travis said. “All the pieces came together.”

Travis coordinated with the Huntington Area Food Bank and its backpack program, which provides weekend meals to students who may have a difficult time getting food outside of the school cafeteria.

A local church has also taken up the call to help with the Backpack Buddies.

Jodie Hunt, member of Campbell Chapel Freewill Baptist Church, said she knew there was a need for children in the area, but didn’t know how to find them.

“I just saw there was such a need in our area,” Hunt said. “The Lord has really blessed Campbell Chapel with an amazing opportunity. … My family doesn’t have a need for that right now, but that doesn’t mean tomorrow we won’t.”

With one call to the elementary school, Hunt found out about Travis’ efforts and knew how her church could help.

Thursday, Hunt and her family brought donations of food from the church for the backpacks. The church has done so for the past few weeks, bringing in items like macaroni and cheese, applesauce, oatmeal, juice boxes, fruit and cereal.

Last week, more than 40 children took food home for the weekend, ensuring they would not go hungry.

The program works by referrals, Travis said. Teachers, bus drivers, custodians and cafeteria staff look and listen for the children whom they see are in need of the food. The bags of food are placed in the child’s backpack on Friday.

Bob Bradley, Pastor of Campbell Chapel, said response from his church members and from the community has been good.

“We don’t want to stop here,” Bradley said. “We want to get to where we can do this in all our schools.”

For anyone who wants to donate items or funds for the project, Bradley said people can call (740) 533-0678 or email him at preacherbob@roadrunner.com

Donations are tax deductible and the church can pick up items. All items must be peanut-free.