Last Thursday (September 17), the local Fulton/Oswego BIB chapter recognized the National Blessings in a Backpack Day by filling enough bags of food to feed the amount of selected children at one elementary school.
Blessings in a Backpack, or BIB, is a national program that feeds 76,000 children in more than 800 schools including elementary schools in both Fulton and Oswego.
“The bottom line is these kids didn’t ask to be born into poverty,” said Fulton BIB Coordinator, Mary Beth Hill. “A lot of these kids have behavioral issues come Friday at school when they know they are going home to no food for the weekend.”
To combat these problems, BIB provides qualified students with a bag of food on the last day of the school week for 38 weeks of the year to bring home for the weekend.
To qualify, the student must be at the elementary level of schooling and also qualify for free or reduced lunch.
From there, the students are selected through the home-school liaisons and are selected off of need and personal discretion.
In its first year, the local BIB program fed 50 total students, 25 in Fulton and 25 in Oswego. The number of participants has only grown with each passing year.
This year, BIB was able to provide for 250 students, 125 children in Fulton and 125 children in Oswego.
For the first time this year as well, all four elementary schools in Fulton will participate in the program as to spread the good fortune as much as possible.
“The home-school liaisons and school psychologists that place children in the program do so at their best discretion. We try to make sure we cover kids that are being missed by other programs such as food stamps, the children whose family has fallen on hard times and they just aren’t getting by,” said Hill.
“And there have been times where we find out people are not using the program correctly and when we approach them, they just express that the program is not as vital for them anymore, they are past this need. In that case, we just move it to another child and let someone else benefit from the program that needs it,” she continued.
The non-for profit program is run exclusively through donations and fundraisers.
An anonymous Fulton donor has volunteered to donate $4,000 each year the program is in place, enough money to feed 50 students for the year.
That large donation, teamed with donations from service groups such as the Fulton Sunrise Rotary Club, and the Lions Club and Elks Club of Oswego, and individual donations, the program has been able to quadruple in amount of children served.
The community can participate in donations at local businesses like Fajita Grill and YoBerry on select days when these businesses donate a certain percentage of their sales for a day to the BIB program.
The Can-A-Lot bottle and can return service in both Fulton and Oswego has also partnered with BIB and will donate 6.5 cents a can to Blessings in a Backpack per request of the customer.
The ‘Blast Hunger’ fundraiser put on by the local chapter including a craft show and silent auction is also a large portion of the program’s monetary support.
For the second year, Fulton participated in the National Blessings in a Backpack Day in which Mayor Ronald Woodward Sr. is invited to help fill bags of food for students and sign the official proclamation.
Although Mayor Woodward was unable to attend this year due to an emergency, he sent his regrets.
“This is the second National BIB Day after the U.S. Conference of Mayors encouraged all local mayors to participate. Mayor Woodward was very happy to do it last year and again this year, although he ended up not being able to attend,” said Hill.
The National BIB Day was completed the day before students were sent home with their first bag of food for the weekend.
While some people may be unable to donate money, the program has received donations of food and other necessities before.
“We’ve had orchards donate fresh apples in the past, Knit Wits has donated 200 hats before so each child in the program could go home with a hat before the holiday break, that was incredible. People have donated food before but we find it to be easiest to just collect money and get the food ourselves. The menus we choose from are put together by a nutritionist and dietician on a national level and there are things we have to check for, like expiration and such. Plus, if a person donates food we have to accept 125 of the same item, so that each child can have one,” explained Hill.
Currently, each student is bringing home macaroni and cheese, a can of spaghetti, applesauce, Pop-Tarts, and 100% fruit juice fruit snacks.
To figure out how to donate or to collect more information, feel free to contact Fulton Blessings in a Backpack coordinator, Mary Beth Hill at 598-7845 or by email, [email protected]
“I was a teacher for 32 years,” said Hill. “I knew kids were going home hungry, I just didn’t know what to do about it. It’s really a simple solution though, just buy the food and send it home with them.”