Rotary feeds Decatur Co. students with Backpack Buddies program

Published 8:32 pm Tuesday, August 19, 2014


Bainbridge Rotary Club members form an assembly line, filling bags with food to be sent home with chronically hungry children. Each bag contains seven to nine food items such as fruit cups, granola bars, canned soup, oatmeal and applesauce. — Shelby Farmer

Kimberly Meredith, her husband and their four children moved to Bainbridge about a year ago.

The family was in a tough place financially, and one of the kids’ teachers reached out to Meredith when she suspected the family may need help.

“For the next couple weeks, I didn’t have to worry about my kids not eating dinner,” Meredith said at Tuesday’s Rotary meeting. “You lose sleep, and it makes you sick thinking that your child, who can’t control anything, might have to do without.”

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Meredith received help from the Family Connection’s Backpack Program that provides meals to Decatur County students over weekends.

“I refer to it as Blessings in a Backpack because this program is just that to so many of our families,” said Stephanie Poitevint, Family Connection board member and Decatur County school psychologist. “We provide food to meet the needs of chronically hungry children. Our program provides children with nutritious and easy-to-prepare food over the weekends.”

Poitevint addressed the Rotary club about the program and how it helps local families. She asked Meredith to speak as an example of just how the program can help.

The program began in 2007, initially feeding about 50 kids. The program now caters to each of the five Decatur County elementary schools as well as Hutto Middle School.

Approximately 100 kids per week receive meals from the program, Poitevint said.

“This is a wonderful program, and people who you wouldn’t think need the help are normally the first people that just won’t ask, and this program helps so many kids,” Meredith said, encouraging members to give what they can to the program.

Poitevint said that those wanting to help can donate food, money or time by helping pack bags every Tuesday at 3:15 p.m. at the Support Center gym or by taking part in a food drive.

“This program is only sponsored by people in our community by donations,” Poitevint said. “It’s not something that’s funded through the school system or through Family Connection. It’s strictly funded through donations.”

Students can participate in the program after a screening process by school officials. Kids are usually referred to school counselors who help assess if they are eligible. The family is then contacted for consent, Poitevint said.

The take-home meals consist of fruit cups, Ramen noodles, granola bars, grits and oatmeal, applesauce, and one of three meat-based items such as chicken noodle soup, Vienna sausages or Beenie Weenies.

“When you are forced into a situation when you have to ask for help, it’s very humbling,” Meredith said. “You never expect to have to do that. You never want to have to do that, but when it comes to asking for help and getting help for your children or not asking for help and your children suffering, there is no question. You go to who you need to go to.”