By Julia A. Keirns

One in six children in America struggles with having access to food on the weekends. Paulding County is no different. Many children utilize the free breakfast and lunch program in the local schools but are not in school for 65 hours from Friday afternoon until Monday morning. Across the nation there are many titles for this program, but the Wayne Trace School District is officially calling it “Blessings in a Bag.”

“Some families just need extra help to feed their children on the weekends,” said Lydia Yenser. Yenser works with Payne Elementary and Grover Hill Elementary Schools in the Wayne Trace School District as Guidance Counselor.

She had noticed a need for a weekend backpack nutrition program for children and reached out to other schools in the area to find out what programs had been successful for them.

She was steered in the direction of the United Way of Paulding County and the Blessings in a Bag Program. Some funding was received in the beginning and sponsorship forms were sent home to all the families in the school district. Several sponsorships were received that way.

“A lot of families can provide the basics,” said Yenser, “but there is a huge gap. The gap needed to be filled. Too many children needed extra nutrition on the weekends, and I knew we had to do something.”

It is a sad fact that some children will not eat all weekend long. Every student in the school district received a form explaining the program and parents were allowed to sign up their children to receive a backpack on Friday afternoons.

“The backpacks go home with the children in a very subtle and discreet manner and are returned on Monday mornings,” continued Yenser.

This program is non-profit funded, and donations are desperately needed. Donations can be in the form of money or pre-packaged food and snacks.

Checks can be sent to the United Way of Paulding County marked for the Wayne Trace Blessings in a Bag Program or can be sent to Wayne Trace School District with the same notation. Approximately $130 will feed one child every weekend for an entire school year.

Yenser commented, “This program is such a positive blessing for the children in our community and I am proud to be a part of it.”

Blessings in a Bag is a nationwide program that began with a single apple being sent home one day with a single child. It is also known as “Blessings in a Backpack.” The mission of the program is to mobilize the individuals and resources in the community to provide food on the weekends for elementary school children across America who might otherwise go hungry.

Food is an essential building block in a child’s development, and in this case is truly a blessing to a child who might otherwise go hungry.