From Harford County Public Schools:
More than 600 HCPS elementary school students in need will not be without food over the weekends throughout the school-year as a result of the generosity and support of community members, HCPS staff and a local church congregation.
Two elementary schools are teaming together with the community to participate in the national ‘Blessings in a Backpack’ initiative. William Paca/Old Post Road and Magnolia elementary schools are reaching out to their students in need.
‘Blessings in a Backpack’ is a national program that provides elementary schoolchildren who are on the federal Free and Reduced Price Meal Program with a backpack of food to take home on weekends during the school year. The non-profit organization, started in 2005, currently feeds over 57,000 children in 391 schools across 39 U.S. states and three countries – Canada, Columbia and Haiti. Students who participate in the ‘Blessings in a Backpack’ program have shown improvement in school attendance, test scores, behavior, and health.
Magnolia Elementary School Family Liaison Barb Haller started the initiative earlier this year to ensure that all students’ hunger needs were met. Ms. Haller partnered with Mountain Christian Church in Joppa, to secure the funds necessary to feed all students who qualify for the program in her school.
“The program has had an overwhelmingly positive impact on the lives of the children at Magnolia Elementary School,” stated Ms. Haller. “For so many reasons the students look forward to getting their backpacks for the weekend. They feel proud that it is their very own and I know in my heart that it brightens their lives.”
Since that time, Mountain Christian Church has raised over $45,000 to fund the initiative, as well as to provide volunteers each week to help stuff backpacks. Ms. Liz Ross of Mountain Christian Church shares the same passion for this program and helping the county’s children in need. Ms. Ross coordinates the church’s fundraising efforts to provide more funds to support this program. Without the generosity of the people from Mountain Christian, children would be going hungry each weekend.
“Ms. Ross and the generous people of Mountain Christian Church need to know that it is because of their efforts this program is truly making a positive impact on our students” said Mr. Jake Little, HCPS coordinator of Title I.
Each week, volunteers from the HCPS central office, both participating elementary schools, and Mountain Christian Church come together to stuff backpacks with cans of soup, raisins, juice boxes, granola bars, and noodles for 320 students at Magnolia Elementary and 320 students at William Paca/Old Post Road Elementary. Students take the backpacks home on Friday and return them the following week to be stuffed again.
In addition, another local elementary school has gotten involved in the initiative by raising funds to support the program. Emmorton Elementary School recently presented a check to Mountain Christian Church for the ‘Blessings’ initiative in the amount of $1,300. Students and staff participated in a Reading Challenge after sharing the story, Frindle. The main idea of the story is that “one person can make a difference.” The school community rallied around this theme to raise money for ‘Blessings.’
“Knowing that all of our children have additional food over the weekend is comforting,” reflected Mrs. Patricia Mason, principal of Magnolia Elementary School. “’Blessings in a Backpack’ has truly been a blessing for our children at Magnolia Elementary.”
The immediate success of the program has inspired the community to reach further to feed more students. Ultimately, the goal is to expand the program to all six HCPS Title I elementary schools, which could potentially feed more than 3,000 students who qualify for the program. Plans are in place to coordinate efforts to reach that goal.