With the need continuing to grow, Blessings in a Backpack is seeking the community’s support on Giving Tuesday to make a difference in the life of youngsters who may otherwise go hungry.
Blessings in a Backpack SWFL Executive Director Cecilia St. Arnold said Giving Tuesday, is always held the Tuesday after Thanksgiving, as the nonprofit version of Black Friday. She said it’s a feel-good time of the year which attracts people who normally do not give.
“A lot of people want to give, but usually don’t know how, or whom, or why,” St. Arnold said. “The biggest thing we are doing well is our donors understand their dollars stay right here in their community helping their own kids in their backyard. They have immediate outcomes from our charity when they donate to us.”
A donation of $100 can feed one child for an entire school year. Those who would like to make a donation can do so by visiting www.blessingsinswfl.org. They have the opportunity to choose which school their dollars should go to feed the children.
“Every $100 helps, believe me. It’s one more child we can add to the program,” St. Arnold said. “Our donor dollars goes to feed kids, period.”
Right now they are feeding almost 4,800 children in Lee County at 23 schools – 3,000 more children than five years ago.
“”I have six schools I don’t have the funding for right now. They are scattered all over Lee County from South County, to Lehigh to Fort Myers,” St. Arnold said.
Blessings in a Backpack focuses on children kindergarten through fifth grade who qualify for free and reduced meals at Title 1 schools. The program supplements the free breakfast and lunch program students receive during the school day by providing meals on the weekend, so the children do not have to go 65 hours without nutrition. They receive a backpack Friday afternoon that has two breakfast and lunch meals, which are kid-friendly and highly nutritional. The meals do not need to be refrigerated, or heated.
“There is such a correlation to how a child will learn,” St. Arnold said of having the correct nutrition. “A lot of these kids go through the weekend with maybe a meal, sometimes not. There is a lot of working parents that are struggling to put food on the table. The need is big and the need is growing. It is not diminishing in Southwest Florida.”
She said Tropic Isles Elementary School, in North Fort Myers, received its first delivery of food this week to help 65 students.
“I can feed 365 kids in that school. The need is huge,” St. Arnold said.
She said they are also feeding 125 more children in Cape Coral.
There are about 30,000 students in Lee County that need food assistance and another 31,000 in Collier County.
Blessings in a Backpack Southwest Florida Chapter started nine years ago and is part of the national organization, which began 10 years ago. The founder, Scott Fischer, who used to own a Harley Davidson dealership, was golfing with other business leaders in Louisville when the discussion took place that “we need to take care of our kids in our own community.”
A board was formed and a business model took hold. St. Arnold was brought in five years ago to run the organization.
Donations of any size can be made online at blessingsinswfl.org or via mail to P.O. Box 61402 Fort Myers, FL 33906.
All contributions are tax-deductible.