Guest post by Kimberly Kutch, DCF Community Development Administrator for Circuit 20 (serving Charlotte, Glades, Lee Hendry and Collier counties)
Jolene Mowry knew that, sadly, many children go to bed hungry. She was sure that wasn’t the case in Charlotte County where she lived.
Jolene was in North Carolina speaking to a friend about the number of kids in school who often go hungry. The friend told Jolene she may be surprised if she spoke with local schools back home.
What Jolene found was frightening. Approximately 455 students in Charlotte County Public School district are homeless. She decided to do something about it.
Jolene founded the The Yah Yah Girls Inc. Their mission: “Help children in Charlotte County who are homeless, near homeless or who are living in dire financial need.” In November 2010, after much research, planning and fundraising, the Yah Yahs began their Back Pack Kidz Program at Sallie Jones Elementary School. By Fall 2011 the Back Pack Kidz program expanded to five elementary schools and hope to continue to grow.
Here’s how Back Pack Kidz works: On Fridays, the Yah Yahs deliver backpacks of healthy, nonperishable, child-friendly food to the schools to distribute to the identified children so they will not go hungry over the weekend. The empty backpacks are picked up early the next week and the process begins again.
For the 2012/2013 school year, there are 4,762 students eligible for free and reduced breakfast/lunch in the area. These are children who often do not have access to regular meals outside of schools. In the 2011/2012 school year, about 22,000 backpacks were delivered. Weekly, $107,250 was spent on food for the backpacks.
The Yah Yahs have now become a part of DCF’s Partner for Promise program and will be providing backpacks of food for any elementary school child that may go hungry without additional help.
The power of just one individual is amazing. The power of groups is empowering. It doesn’t take much to make a big difference in your community.
If you know a child under age 19 who needs food during the summer months, please visit the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Summer BreakSpot. The program offers free healthy breakfasts, lunches and snacks all summer long.
Does your business have a service or product that could help needy families in your community? Check out DCF’s Partners for Promise to see how you can help.