“We have lots of children that need our support,” said Katie Milligan, third grade teacher with Edenton-Chowan Schools. “When some of our students leave us on Friday afternoon we often wonder if they will have food to eat over the weekend. It’s a really tough issue, and that is why we are so excited to provide meals to our children that need it the most.” Milligan, a member of Edenton United Methodist Church, is joined by LeAnn Nixon and Amanda Howell, both members of Rocky Hock Baptist Church, who together have helped develop and oversee the program.
North Carolina Department of Public Instruction lists Edenton-Chowan Schools as providing free or reduced lunch to nearly 65 percent of its students during the 2010-2011 school year. To qualify for free or reduced lunch, household incomes must not exceed various income levels depending on household size as identified by the state. Having a nutritious warm meal at school may be the only one some students have the entire day.
Edenton-Chowan Schools have reached out to help some of their students who leave its campuses on Friday by ensuring they have food to eat on Saturday and Sunday. Currently 50 children are enrolled in the program, with half coming from White Oak Elementary School and the other half from D.F. Walker Elementary School. Guidance counselors and teachers identified the students enrolled in the program.
Various organizations are lending a hand to ensure everyone eats. Ray Wells with the Edenton-Chowan Food Pantry is able to purchase packaged food through donations the community has made at a discounted price. Various churches including Edenton United Methodist, Rocky Hock Baptist and Edenton Baptist have pledged money and time to help buy and stuff the food in discreet book bags that are distributed to students on Friday afternoon and returned on Monday morning. Edenton Baptist Church is even providing a volunteer to transport the bags to and from the food pantry and schools.
"The Book Bag program is the result of the community coming together to meet the needs of a number of our young children,” said Dr. Allan Smith, superintendent of Edenton-Chowan Schools. “The combined efforts of the Food Pantry, area churches, Vidant Chowan Hospital, private citizens, and the schools will insure that these children will have nutritious meals every weekend. This is just one more example of the deep abiding concern for children and the generosity of the people of Chowan County.”
Food inside the book bag will change throughout the year. When the program was launched earlier this month it included fruit swirls, cereal, milk, grape juice, applesauce, macaroni and cheese and beans and franks. Vidant Chowan Hospital is providing fresh fruit that includes oranges and apples. There are enough meals and snacks to last one student the entire weekend.
“We are happy to help support the Book Bag program and feel as though it helps us live our mission of enhancing the quality of life for the people and communities we serve, touch and support,” said Jeff Sackrison, president of Vidant Chowan Hospital. “Fruit provides the essential nutrients that are important for a child's health, growth and development.”
Unfortunately there is a need to add more students to the program. $200 will feed one student the entire school year. Donations are being accepted to help buy additional food. Anyone can support the cause by making a tax-deductible gift to the Edenton-Chowan Food Pantry, care of the Book Bag Buddy Program. All checks should be made payable to the Edenton-Chowan Food Pantry with the Book Bag Buddy Program listed in the memo line. For more information, call Katie Milligan at 252-333-0448.