Backpack Buddies harvest community support

Published 12:55 am Sunday, September 22, 2013

Food drive culminates with special activities


Jodie Hunt works part-time, or more accurately, she has a part-time job. Most of the time, she can be found in a basement filling bags with food.

Hunt is a member of Campbell Chapel Church and the organizer of the Backpack Buddies program that provides food for 160 children in several school districts.

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The Backpack Buddies van she drives to drop off food every Thursday at local schools has taken the place of her Jeep Wrangler.

“Children not having food, children being hungry, is a real issue in our area and as the economy continues to struggle, it is getting worse,” Hunt said. “It’s important to know it is not the kids’ fault they don’t have any food —that’s why we have this program.”

The Backpack Buddies Community Harvest on Saturday next to Campbell Chapel marked the end of the program’s food drive that has been taking place this past week at several locations in the Ironton area.

Food collection barrels were placed at Pick ‘N’ Save, Bartram and Sons, Food Fair in Coal Grove, Hecla Water, Upper Township Fire Department, St. Mary’s in Ironton, Loan Central and Campbell Chapel.

“Food Fair in Coal Grove loves the program and they asked us if we would leave our barrel there for ongoing collection,” Hunt said. “The response has been tremendous.”

It costs $4.12 per bag of food — all of it donated — and other schools have expressed interest in coming on board.

“I talked to some people at Rock Hill and I found out they already have a similar program,” Hunt said. “So with their program and our program together, a lot of kids in that school district have food in their backpacks.”

Open Door School, Hunt said, is close to becoming part of the program as well as the Lawrence County Cooperative Class.

Students who become part of the program are on free or reduced lunch or are referred by teachers, cooks, bus drivers and anyone who gets a glimpse of a student’s life and knows lack of food could be an issue.

“It’s all confidential,” Hunt said. “Students who get the free snacks know where to get them. Often teachers will put the snacks in their backpacks while they are at lunch or recess.”

Several vendors had booths at the community harvest such as the Ironton Health Department, Lawrence County Head Start, the Lawrence County Sheriff’s Office, Ohio State Highway Patrol, King’s Daughters Medical Center, WesBanco and Lowe’s of Russell, Ky.

“Lowe’s has been a tremendous supporter of this program,” Hunt said. “They donated all the tools and things for our silent auction and gave us mums to sell to raise money. Almost everything here was donated by a person or business.”

Heiner’s donated hotdog buns and those attending the event could have free hot dogs and two inflatables were on site for kids’ entertainment. Hunt said the owner of Lotsa Fun Inflatables contacted her about donating the inflatables.

It takes 30 volunteers a week to keep the program going and on schedule, Hunt said, and nearly 80 volunteers were working in many capacities at the harvest event.