New Albany leaders volunteer to pack food for Blessings in a Backpack
Several city leaders joined an effort on September 9, 2021, to pack meals at a New Albany, Indiana school for students in need.
Throughout the school year, volunteers come together for the local Blessings in a Backpack program to pack meals and snacks for students facing food insecurity. On Thursday, members of the New Albany City Council and New Albany Redevelopment Commission offered their support.
Blessings in a Backpack volunteers at Green Valley Elementary School in New Albany included city council members Jason Applegate and Al Knable, as well as Adam Dickey, vice-president of the redevelopment commission. They helped pack bags of food in boxes to deliver to classrooms.
Blessings in a Backpack Floyd County serves the elementary and middle schools in New Albany-Floyd County Schools. Students are sent home with bags of food on the weekends.
The organization serves about 1,400 students in the district, including 255 students at Green Valley Elementary. Students are given enough food for two breakfasts, two lunches and snacks for the weekend.
Any NAFCS student who qualifies for free and reduced lunch is eligible to receive meals from Blessings in a Backpack. The program continues weekly throughout the school year.
Applegate, who also serves on the redevelopment commission, said NAFCS is lucky to have Blessings in a Backpack involved with schools in the district.
“Just being able to come out and see firsthand what they do and then actually look at where our money goes when we do help from either council or redevelopment — you see there are actual kids in need that use the services of Blessings in a Backpack,” he said.
Last year, the redevelopment commission approved $35,000 in funding for Blessings in a Backpack using money from the CARES Act.
Knable encourages community members to volunteer with Blessing in a Backpack.
“It’s a nice cause — there’s so much anxiety in the world, and none of it’s helped by an empty stomach,” he said. “If this helps get someone through the day or through the weekend, more power to them. It’s a great program.”
Dickey said Blessings in a Backpack is an “essential program to make sure students are getting the nutrition and getting the support that they need in order to be whole and successful.”
“Our redevelopment commission, our city council members here — this is one of those programs that we can all come together to support,” he said. “It works out really well in partnership with the school, in partnership with those who help us distribute this, and I think it provides a real safety net in addition to what we’ve got available out there.”
Kendra Needham, social worker at Green Valley Elementary, was among those packing meals for Blessings in a Backpack Thursday afternoon. There is a huge need for the program for students at the elementary school, she said.
“Here at Green Valley, we have a lot of kids who are maybe left at home by themselves over the weekend, so this just really helps them provide food for themselves when their parents aren’t home,” she said.
Jennie Olmstead, vice chair for Blessings in a Backpack Floyd County, noted the support the organization has received from community leaders.
“The city and the county have been great supporters of ours, and we couldn’t it do it without them,” she said. “They not only physically and mentally and financially support us, but they keep showing up and helping us raise awareness so other people realize they can only stay funded by generous donations.”
There has been an increased need for the services of Blessings in a Backpack during the pandemic, Olmstead said.
Stephanie Watson, board member for Blessings in a Backpack, is also a teacher at Fairmont Elementary School in New Albany, and she sees the need for the program each day.
“I see our kids and how when they receive Blessings, they’re coming to school and their main concern isn’t getting fed,” she said. “Their main concern is, ‘OK, I’m here to learn’ because they’ve had that nutrition over the weekend.”
“Before we started Blessings, we saw kids coming in on Monday morning, and they were so lethargic because they were hungry,” she said. “We knew we needed to solve that problem for them, because they’re just babies and they can’t do that themselves. That’s why this program means so much.”