Blessing in a backpack: New program provides food for hungry kids

Nearly 200 North Grove students go home every Friday without enough food to keep them full during the weekend, but a group of high school volunteers hopes to change that.

Center Grove will be participating in the national Blessings in a Backpack program. The national food distribution program gave Center Grove 195 backpacks to the North Grove students, and once a week, volunteers from the high school will meet for an afternoon to fill them with oatmeal, granola bars, fruit snacks, juice boxes, macaroni and spaghetti.

Their hope is when the students return to school Monday, they won’t be hungry, said program coordinator Chris Hickey, who has two children at Center Grove High School.

Hickey wanted to find a way to give meals to Center Grove elementary students enrolled in the free and reduced-price lunch program — about 20 percent of all students last year — who weren’t getting enough to eat at home.

Two years ago, she heard about Blessings in a Backpack from a friend in Fort Wayne. The program is similar to one run by the Gleaners Food Bank of Indiana and used by Clark-Pleasant and Franklin schools.

After speaking with the elementary school principals, Hickey found North Grove had the greatest need with 195 students.

The program provides the backpacks, but it’s up to communities to raise money for the food. Since September, Hickey has been coordinating fundraisers and organizing high school students and groups willing to help fill the backpacks.

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