Backpack Buddies feed needy kids on weekends

Members of the Vineyard Community Church from Coweta, Fayette and Henry counties have an initiative underway designed to provide weekend meals for income eligible children from two Coweta County elementary schools. Packing meals in the sanctuary on Feb. 2, church members expect “Backpack Buddies” to expand across Coweta and Fayette counties and beyond. Photo/Ben Nelms.

Schools provide needy kids with no-fee breakfasts and lunches during the five-day school week, but what happens to the kids on the other two days during the weekends?

Members at the Vineyard Community Church near Senoia are stepping up to fill that gap. They intend to provide those same children with meals during the weekends.

The new initiative, “Backpack Buddies,” has targeted two of Coweta’s elementary schools with hopes of expanding the effort across Coweta County and the region for income-eligible children.

Vineyard member and Backpack Buddies coordinator April Anderson said she got the idea from friends out of state who began a similar effort.

“The kids who may not have enough to eat get hungry on weekends, too. Hunger can be associated with dropping grades, missed school days, poor health and behavior issues,” Anderson said. “The goal is to eliminate the hunger and to eliminate the negatives.”

Anderson and nearly two dozen church members and community volunteers gathered at the church last week to fill the first backpacks for delivery on Friday.

The backpacks contain self-serve foods that can be eaten cold. Anderson said the children will return the backpacks so the process can begin again the following week.

Jefferson Parkway and Atkinson are the two initial elementary schools to be served by the Backpack Buddies effort.

Anderson said the “buddies” group at Vineyard will start the effort targeting approximately 60 elementary students at the two schools and then expand from there to the income-eligible children in all the elementary schools in Coweta County.

Anderson said three businesses have already contacted her, adding that she hopes other businesses and organizations will be willing to conduct food drives for the effort.

The next goal, Anderson said, is to expand the effort on behalf of other income-eligible children throughout Fayette County and the southwest metro Atlanta region.

And eventually, said Anderson, the idea is to take Backpack Buddies out of Vineyard Community Church and expand it as a non-profit that can be utilized by a number of other churches and non-profits.

For more information on the Backpack Buddies initiative call 770-880-3766 or visit www.senoiavineyard.com.