Backpacks of food for hungry children

Published 10:53 am Thursday, July 28, 2016

To the Editor:

I recently wrote about the excellent work and ministry of the Ahoskie Food Pantry. I said that instead of asking the question, “How much can we do with the resources we have?”, AHP asks, “What are the needs?” and then, “How do we find the resources to meet those needs?”

Today, I’d like to tell you why the food pantry has almost doubled in size in the last few years: we’ve become aware of a compelling need for supplemental food assistance to schoolchildren. These days, breakfast and lunch is provided at school, but many children go home on the weekend to situations where they don’t have enough to eat. Teachers and counselors give us names; we provide backpacks of food for the children to take home.

We don’t know the names of the individual children; learning them would be an invasion of their privacy. The backpacks are anonymous so they don’t call undue attention to themselves at school. But we know that each child has a name, and, as far as Christians are concerned, that name is ‘Jesus.’

Never have we felt a greater desire to meet a need. We started learning about it in 2011, and devoted $3,000 of our budget to providing backpacks. More volunteers were needed to prepare them; they showed up. The following year, we more than doubled that amount. More volunteer hours were added. Our awareness of the need grew — and grew some more, and keeps on growing.

We started out doing a few dozen backpacks a week for elementary and then middle-school children. We expect to prepare 1,000 a month during the next school year.

Here’s the rub: it costs about $6.00 per backpack per week. That’s excellent value, but the costs mount up quickly. Last year, we spent more than $30,000 and countless volunteer hours. This year we’ll need to spend $6,000 a month. That’s less than our total budget for 2011 when we started the backpack program.

So we’re turning once again to the community for prayers, support, money, and volunteer service. Please call AFP at 332-2145 if you’d like to contribute any or all of those things. You may also mail contributions to Ahoskie Food Pantry, P.O. Box 159, Ahoskie, NC 27910.

We recently became a 501c3 organization, which allows us to apply for grants from a larger number of outside agencies. But the people of Ahoskie and Hertford County have always been and will always be our central resource and support. Another benefit of our new 501c3 status means that now all your donations are tax-deductible.

The backpack program has been successful. Children are hungry, and we’re doing something about it. But some pressing questions linger: What about high school students?

How well are the younger children eating during holiday breaks and in the summer?

With your help, we’ll continue to ask these questions and look to you for help in providing the answers as long as the needs are there. Thank you for all your assistance in the past — and in the future.

Rev. Richard Goodman
First Presbyterian Church, Ahoskie