By Debra J. Groom
A number of children in the Oswego and Fulton school district do not go hungry on the weekends anymore thanks to the Episcopal-Lutheran Faith Partnership of Oswego and Fulton and its participation in the Blessings in a Backpack program.
The program, which began in 2005 in two schools in Louisville, Ky., provides backpacks of food for needy children to take home over the weekend.
The faith partnership began the program the second week of this school year and church members get together at the end of each week to fill bags with food for the children.
Beth Hallinan, of Episcopal Church of the Resurrection, Oswego, said children receiving the bags are selected by school nurses, social workers and psychologists. Children are from families that qualify for the federal Free and Reduced Price Meal program.
At the beginning of the school year, the church members packed 25 bags each for children at Leighton Elementary in Oswego and Volney Elementary in Fulton.
“But then an anonymous donor allowed us to expand that to 50 bags at each school each week,” Hallinan said.
A donation of $80 will provide a bag for one child each week of the school year.
More than 62 percent of children in the United States are fed meals at school, but often there isn’t much food for them when they are at home on the weekends.
Long-term childhood hunger can lead to a weaker immune system, increases hospitalizations and impaired neural development which can hamper a child’s ability to learn in school, according to a fact sheet issued by Blessings in a Backpack.
Hallinan said the program used to use actual backpacks, but officials were having difficulties getting the bags back, cleaning them and keeping them in good condition. So now the food is sent home in plastic bags.
The faith partnership consists of Episcopal Church of the Resurrection, Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church in Oswego and Prince of Peace Evangelical Lutheran Church in Fulton.